Chhaganlal V.Yogi

How The Maharshi Came To Me

By Chhaganlal V. Yogi

from The Maharshi (1993 - 1994), translation by David Godman

Part I

WHAT DOES SRI BHAGAVAN mean to me? After many years of experiencing his grace I can now reply, "He is everything to me. He is my Guru and my God." I can say this with confidence because, had I not had the good fortune of seeing him and thereafter getting into closer contact with him, I would have been still groping in the dark. I would still have been a doubting Thomas.

How did it all begin? When I was eighteen I read a lot of books by Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. This reading generated a desire in me that I should also become a sannyasin, like the authors of these books. Their writings also implanted in me the ideal of plain living, high thinking, and a life dedicated to spiritual matters. Somehow, my desire to become a sannyasin was never fulfilled, but the ideal of a dedicated life made a deeper and deeper impression on my mind. At the age of twenty I had the good fortune of contacting Mahatma Gandhi. His ideals won my heart and for several years I faithfully tried to put them into practice.

I was doing my duty to the best of my ability and leading, as best I could, a pure and dedicated life until the age of thirty-eight. Around that time scepticism began to assail me and my mind became a home for all kinds of doubts. I began to doubt the ideals of Gandhiji; I began to doubt sadhus and sannyasins; I doubted religion, and I even began to doubt the existence of God.

It was in this darkest period of my life that I first heard of Sri Ramana Maharshi. At that time I seemed to be heading swiftly towards total scepticism. The world appeared to me to be full of injustice, cruelty, greed, hate and other evils, the existence of which logically led me to a strong disbelief in God. For, I argued, did He truly exist, could anything dark or evil ever have flourished? Doubt upon doubt assailed me like dark shadows which dogged my footsteps. I had, as a consequence, lost whatever little reverence I might have had for sadhus and sannyasins. I found myself slowly but surely losing my interest in religion. The very word itself eventually became a synonym in my mind for a clever ruse to delude the credulity of the world. In short, I began to live a life lacking optimism and faith. I was not happy in my disbelief, for my mind took on the aspect of turbulent waters, and I felt that all around me there was raging a scorching fire which seemed to burn up my very entrails.

One day, while travelling as usual on the train to the office, I happened to meet a friend who had spent over a decade in Europe and America. I hadn't met him for quite a long time and sometimes used to wonder where he had disappeared to. In answer to a query about his recent activities he said that he had been to Sri Ramanasramam and immediately launched into a description of what went on there. While he was trying to describe to me his experience of the darshan of Sri Bhagavan he drew out from his pocket a small packet which he extended to me. I wondered what it contained. He explained that it contained something extremely precious - some vibhuti, holy ashes brought from the ashram. He insisted on my accepting them. His kind invitation did not interest me in the least. On the other hand, it amused me.

I said scornfully, "Pardon me, but I think that all this sort of thing is mere sham and humbug, so I trust you will not misunderstand me if I refuse to accept."

He then argued that by refusing his gift, I was not merely insulting him, I was also insulting the vibhuti.

I thought that this was rather comical, but to placate him I replied, "Well, if that be so, to please you I will take a pinch of these ashes on the condition that you will allow me to do whatever I like with them." (link to Ramana Vibhuti story)

Unsuspectingly, he nodded his head in assent and passed the packet over to me. A smile appeared on his lips as he watched me take a pinch out of it. This smile was the preface to a zealous exposition on Sri Bhagavan and his miraculous greatness. While he was lost in his missionary enthusiasm, I surreptitiously let the ashes fall onto the floor of the compartment. To be quite frank, it was a relief when my friend had concluded what I had then considered to be a puerile and unnecessary lecture. At the end of it I remarked, "I have an utter contempt for these so-called saints."

My friend refused to give up. He insisted on impressing on me that Sri Ramana Maharshi was not a 'so-called' saint, but an authentic sage acknowledged as such by great savants all over the world. He suggested that for my own benefit I read about him in some of the available literature. To start me off he gave me a book entitled Sri Maharshi, which had been written by Sri Kamath, the editor of The Sunday Times in Madras.

I must confess that despite my prejudices the book evoked in me an interest in Sri Bhagavan. After completing this small book, I was sufficiently curious to borrow another book about him from a different friend. It was the second edition of Self-Realisation, the earliest full-length biography of Sri Bhagavan. From then on, my interest grew without my being aware of it. A little later I felt compelled to write to Sri Ramanasramam to ask for all the literature on Sri Bhagavan that was available in English. As I began to study it with great avidity, I found that my outlook on life began to undergo a subtle transformation, but only a partial one. At the back of my mind there still lurked a heavy doubt, resembling a cloud, that stained the gathering illumination. My old scepticism did not wish to yield place so easily to this new faith, which was apparently being inculcated in my mind. My scepticism tried to challenge my new faith by arguing, "So many books are wonderful to read, but their authors, more often than not, are not as wonderful to know. It is possible for men to teach truths which they are unable to live themselves. What, then, is the use of books, however wonderful?"

To counter this doubt I decided to correspond directly with Sri Bhagavan. Over the next few months I wrote several letters to him, all of which were answered by his ashram with a rare punctuality. However, although they breathed the teachings of the Master, they hardly gave me a glimpse into the nature of the daily life lived by him. Because of this I began to be haunted by a desire to visit the ashram to see for myself what went on there. To fulfil that desire I paid my first visit to Sri Ramanasramam in the Christmas holiday of 1938.

At first I was terribly disappointed because nothing seemed to strike me in the way I had expected. I found Sri Bhagavan seated on a couch, as quiet and unmoving as a statue. His presence did not seem to emanate anything unusual, and I was very disappointed to discover that he displayed no interest in me at all. I had expected warmth and intimacy, but unfortunately I seemed to be in the presence of someone who lacked both.

From morning till evening I sat waiting to catch a glimpse of his grace, of his interest in me, a stranger who had come all the way from Bombay, but I evoked no response. Sri Bhagavan merely seemed cold and unaffected. After pinning such hopes on him, his apparent lack of interest nearly broke my heart. Eventually, I decided to leave the ashram, knowing full well that if I did, I would be more sceptical and hard-headed that before.

The Veda Parayana was chanted every evening in Sri Bhagavan's presence. It was considered to be one of the most attractive items in the daily program of the ashram, but in my depressed state it fell flat on my ears. It was the evening of the day that I had decided to leave. The sun was setting like a sad farewell, spreading a darkness over both the hill and my heart. The gloom deepened until the neighbourhood disappeared into the blackness of the night. In my sensitive state the electric light which was switched on in the hall seemed like a living wound on the body of the darkness. My mind, which was deeply tormented, felt that the psychic atmosphere in the hall was stuffy and choking. Unable to bear it any longer, I walked outside to get a breath of fresh air. A young man called Gopalan came up to me and asked me where I had come from.

"Bombay," I replied.

He asked me if I had been introduced to the Master, and when I replied that I had not, he was most surprised. He immediately led me to the office, introduced me to the Sarvadhikari and then proceeded with me to the hall where he introduced me to Sri Bhagavan. When he heard my name Sri Bhagavan's eyes turned to me, looked straight into mine and twinkled like stars. With a smile beaming with grace he asked me if I were a Gujerati. I replied that I was. Immediately he sent for a copy of the Gujerati translation by Sri Kishorelal Mashruwala of Upadesa Saram, a few copies of which had only just arrived. He then asked me to chant the Gujerati verses from the book.

"But I am not a singer," I answered, hesitating to begin. But when it became clear that I was expected to perform, I got over my initial hesitation and began to chant verses from the book. I had sung about fifteen when the bell for the evening meal rang. All the time I was chanting I could feel Sri Bhagavan keenly observing me. It seemed that the light of his eyes was suffusing my consciousness, even without my being conscious of it. His silent gaze brought about a subtle but definite transformation in me. The darkness, which a few minutes before had seemed heavy and unbearable, gradually lightened and melted into a glow of well-being. My erstwhile sadness completely disappeared, leaving in my heart an inexplicable emotion of joy. My limbs appeared to have been washed in an ocean-tide of freedom.

That evening I sat close to Sri Bhagavan in the dining room. In my exalted state the food I ate seemed to have an unusual and unearthly taste. I quite literally felt that I was participating in some heavenly meal in the direct presence of God. After having such an experience I, of course, abandoned all thought of leaving the ashram that night. I stayed on for three days longer in order to widen the sacred and extraordinary experience which had already begun, an experience of divine grace which I felt would lead me in the direction of spiritual liberation.

During the three days of my stay in the proximity of the Divine Master, I found my whole outlook entirely changed. After that short period I could find little evidence of my old self, a self which had been tied down with all kinds of preconceptions and prejudices. I felt that I had lost the chains which bind the eyes of true vision. I became aware that the whole texture of my mind had undergone a change. The colours of the world seemed different, and even the ordinary daylight took on an ethereal aspect. I began to see the foolishness and the futility of turning my gaze only on the dark side of life.

In those few days Sri Bhagavan, the divine magician, opened up for me a strange new world of illumination, hope and joy. I felt that his presence on earth alone constituted sufficient proof that humanity, suffering and wounded because of its obstinate ignorance, could be uplifted and saved. For the first time I fully understood the significance of 'darshan'.

While I lay in bed in the guest room of the ashram, the encounter which had taken place on the train in Bombay replayed itself in my mind. I recalled the blind audacity which had prompted me to drop the thrice-holy vibhuti in contempt onto the floor of the railway carriage. Today, even one speck of such vibhuti is a treasure to me.

"O Master," I thought to myself, "what a miracle of transformation! Why did it take half a lifetime before I could meet you? Half a lifetime of blundering, of failing and falling. But I suppose, my Master, that you would say that time is a mental concept. For I feel that in your sight your bhaktas have, throughout all time, always been with you and near you. As these thoughts were passing through my mind, I slowly fell into a deep sleep. The next morning I arose in a rejuvenated state; there was a new vigour in my limbs and an awareness that my heart was permeated with light. On the third day of my visit I sadly took leave of Sri Bhagavan. I was still human enough, still caught in the sense of time and space, for the parting to leave me with a feeling of aching and emptiness in the heart. But there was no despair. Something assured me that I would be returning to the feet of the Master sooner than I could imagine.

My intuition turned out to be correct. In the following years repeated visits seemed to be miraculously and easily arranged by the Master. He seemed to know that I felt an occasional need to be close to him physically. In the years that followed, each succeeding visit deepened the light within, toned up my nerves and suffused my senses with an increasing experience of exhilaration.

In 1945 I decided to wind up my printing press in Bombay in order to go and settle at Sri Ramanasramam. I had no pre-arranged plan for closing down my business; I merely relied on Sri Bhagavan. And he in turn responded to my devout prayer.

In the early hours of the morning, while I was still in my bed and only half awake, I saw a vision in which Sri Bhagavan appeared before me. By his side stood a gentleman whom I recognised as a friend of mine. He had neither been to the ashram nor had he ever exhibited any faith in Sri Bhagavan or me:

Bhagavan: You want to sell your press, don't you?

Me: Yes, Bhagavan, but I must find a buyer.

Bhagavan: (showing my friend standing by his side) Here is the buyer. He will buy your press, so sell it to him.

Me: Since Sri Bhagavan has been kind enough to show me the buyer, may he also favour me by stating the amount at which I should execute the sale?

Sri Bhagavan then showed me five figures on the opposite wall which were shining like a neon sign. The amount indicated to me was quite reasonable, neither low or exorbitant.

Sri Bhagavan and my friend then disappeared from my sight and the vision ended. By itself the vision was astonishing enough, but there was more to come. When I entered my press that day at 11 a.m., my friend from the vision was waiting there for me. Of course, he had come to see me about some other work and had no idea that he had been singled out as a prospective buyer. Feeling that Sri Bhagavan had sent him to me, I told him about the vision that had come to me a few hours before. He listened to me very attentively. When I had finished my tale he simply commented, "I will buy your press at the price indicated by your Guru."

There was no limit to my joy. My desire to sell was fulfilled by his grace and the sale was completed in less than a minute.

Part II

In our last issue we read how Chhaganlal Yogi, the sceptic, became a believer, and how the Maharshi showed him in a dream to whom he should sell his business, and for what price. As the story continues, we now read how he is led into a different business: printing for Sri Ramanasramam.

MY ORIGINAL plan had been to sell all my property in Bombay and move directly to Sri Ramanasramam. However, when the devotees heard what I was planning to do, it was suggested to me that I could be of more use to the ashram in Bangalore. I was asked to start a printing press there which could execute all of Sri Ramanasramam's printing work. I agreed to the idea and soon found myself in Bangalore, looking for suitable premises. I began to suspect that Sri Bhagavan had assisted the sale of my original press because he had work for me to do in Bangalore.

I was a stranger in the city but I soon located an old press which had been lying idle for the previous six months. It was for sale. I saw its proprietor and told him why I wished to buy his business. He agreed to sell it to me but we were unable to agree on a price. To break the deadlock I proposed that both of us should visit the ashram and suggested that we could talk about the deal after we had had Sri Bhagavan's darshan. I thought that since Sri Bhagavan wanted me to do this work in Bangalore, his darshan might help to lubricate the wheels of the transaction.

The owner agreed to the idea, so we set off together for Sri Ramanasramam. On arrival, I took him into the holy presence of Sri Bhagavan and informed him that I proposed to buy the press of the gentleman who was accompanying me, and that I planned to do all the ashram's printing work there. Sri Bhagavan did not say anything; he just nodded his head.

Within a few hours of having had Sri Bhagavan's darshan, there was a wonderful change in the attitude of the owner of the press. He approached me and agreed to sell his press for whatever price I was willing to pay for it. I stated a reasonable amount since I did not want to exploit him, and he happily accepted my offer. When he had agreed to come and see Sri Bhagavan with me he had made a stipulation that no business talks should take place at the ashram. However, after seeing Sri Bhagavan, he proposed that we settle our business immediately. We drafted and signed a sale agreement in the ashram itself and within a week of our visit the press came into my possession.

It was a fairly big press which enabled me to do all kinds of printing work in several languages. Because of the good facilities that were available there, I undertook to print ashram books in English, Tamil, Hindi, Gujerati and Kannada.

The press, which was given the name 'Aruna Press' by Sri Bhagavan, had been idle for six months. It needed a lot of work to get it functioning again, but by Sri Bhagavan's grace I was soon able to take up the ashram work that had been given to me.

In 1946, the devotees of Sri Bhagavan decided to celebrate a golden jubilee to commemorate Sri Bhagavan's fifty years at Arunachala. He had arrived on September 1, 1896, and on that same date in 1946 the ashram proposed to mark the occasion by a number of special events, one of which was the publication of a book entitled The Golden Jubilee Souvenir. The printing of this souvenir was entrusted to my press. Up till then, the press had only printed small books for the ashram. Since this was going to be a big volume of several hundred pages, I was initially reluctant to accept the work because I felt that I would not have enough time to complete it. However, once I overcame my diffidence and accepted the commission, help and co-operation began to pour in. Since some of it was wholly unexpected, I suspected that Sri Bhagavan's divine grace was again at work.

At first, my initial fears appeared to be justified. When only ten days remained before the publication date, I had still not managed to print more than a small part of the book. I temporarily lost my courage and rushed off to the ashram. I prostrated before Sri Bhagavan, told him about the lack of progress and informed him that unless the help of some other press is taken, the volume will not come out on the first of September.

I sat before him enjoying his darshan waiting for his reply. After a few moments of silence he said in a low melodious tone, "Do your work."

These three simple words had a magical effect on me. They fired me with fresh vim and vigour and there arose in my heart a strong belief that the volume would surely be out on the scheduled date. I had received my orders from my Master. I had simply to obey and "do my work". I had faith that all the other details would be looked after by him.

I returned to Bangalore and told the story of my experience at Sri Ramanasramam to my co-workers in the press. All of them accepted Sri Bhagavan's order in the same spirit as I had done. For the next few days all of us worked day and night with full faith, zeal and enthusiasm. The amount of work turned out in those last ten days was, in retrospect, quite astonishing. Then, when three days remained till our deadline, a party of about ten devotees came to my house on its way to the ashram. They were going there to attend the golden jubilee celebrations. Three of them turned out to be expert book-binders. I immediately enlisted their aid and managed to complete the work of the souvenir a day early.

Between 1945 and 1947 the Aruna Press printed all the publications of Sri Ramanasramam. The work was complex and I often found myself having to argue with the official at Sri Ramanasramam who had been put in charge of the publications. The tension between us increased to the point where both of us decided that we should go to Sri Bhagavan to get our differences resolved.

The rest interval between noon and 2:30 p.m. was chosen for our meeting because we wanted to be alone with him. We went to the hall at noon and waited outside for him to return from lunch. On his way back he saw both of us waiting for him. Sensing that we had some business to discuss, he took his seat on the big stone couch outside the hall. My friend immediately started to present his side of the dispute. However, it soon occurred to him that Sri Bhagavan was not comfortable sitting outside on this stone bench. He stopped in the middle of his plea, folded his hands in a respectful way, and requested Sri Bhagavan to go inside the hall. He said that the business should be conducted with Sri Bhagavan seated comfortably on his sofa.

Sri Bhagavan dismissed the appeal with a smile, saying, "What is wrong with the seat? Was there a soft bed and sofa when I was up there (pointing to the hill)? Up there the bare stones served as my bed as well as my seat."

It was clear that in our unseemly haste and our anxiety to plead our respective cases we had been responsible for causing this discomfort to him. Feeling very guilty about this, I felt very embarrassed when my friend's request was turned down. In an anguished voice I begged Sri Bhagavan to follow the advice.

"No, Bhagavan, no. That won't do," I said. "It is our earnest prayer that you should not sit here in the hot sun. We will resume our talk only after you go into the hall and sit comfortably on the sofa."

This time he accepted the advice. He got up, went inside and, as requested, sat on his sofa. Both of us then placed our cases before him. He quietly listened to us and gave his verdict in the language of silence. Smiling with great charm he maintained complete silence, both during and after the presentation of the arguments. The judgement was the best possible one for both of us. Sri Bhagavan's silence had healed the breach. As we emerged from the hall both of us had a spontaneous impulse to embrace the other. In those few minutes our hearts had changed. We separated with the resolve to bury the past and to treat each other in the future with love and friendship. The silken tie with which Sri Bhagavan bound us on that day has never snapped again.

Sometimes in life there is a clash between two competing obligations, especially if both seem to be equally important. At such times it is rather difficult to arrive at the right decision. It has been my experience that at such times our gracious Master leads us to the proper decision. I will give an example from my own life.

At one time I felt that my political duty as a Gandhian demanded that I should court arrest, but my domestic duties bade me otherwise. As I was eager to go to jail as part of the independence struggle, it pained me that, out of regard for my family, I was not able to do so. I found myself in a dilemma and I could not of my own accord see the way out. The situation was so unbearable for me that I had to turn to the Master for help and relief. I therefore set out for Tiruvannamalai.

After reaching there I went and sat in the holy presence of the Master. While I was sitting there I began to wonder how I should place my difficulty before him because I did not feel like broaching the subject verbally. I finally decided to pour forth my prayer from my heart in silence in the form of a plea for Sri Bhagavan to extend his benign help to me. I began to pray and while I concentrated on my mental plea I watched his radiant face and his sparkling eyes, which were full of love and kindness. And then, astonishingly, something like a miracle began to happen. Sri Bhagavan's face transformed itself into that of Mahatma Gandhi, while his body remained the same. As I stared at it with awe and wonder, the two faces, those of Sri Bhagavan and Gandhiji, began to appear to me alternately in quick succession. I felt my heart filling with joy and yet at the same time I was wondering whether what I saw was real or not. I turned my eyes away from Sri Bhagavan and looked around me to see if others were seeing what I saw. Seeing no sign of wonder on their faces, I concluded that what I saw was a picture from my own imagination. I closed my eyes and sat quietly for some time. Then, as I began again to look at Sri Bhagavan's face, the vision immediately reappeared, but this time with a slight change. In addition to the two faces of Sri Bhagavan and Gandhiji, those of Krishna, Buddha, Kabir, Ramdas and a host of other saints began to show themselves in quick succession. Now all my doubts vanished and I began to enjoy this grand and divine show. The vision lasted about five minutes. My mind dropped all its worries and I found myself able to hand over my problem to the capable hands of the Master. Though he spoke no words to me, it came to pass that the problem was solved without infringing either of my two duties. In fact, both duties were fulfilled satisfactorily.

I had another vision of Sri Bhagavan in 1943. During my visit to Sri Ramanasramam that year, I visited the temple of Sri Arunachaleswara with my family and a friend who was a devotee from Madurai. This is the main temple in Tiruvannamalai, the same one which Sri Bhagavan stayed in when he first arrived here.

While we were walking through the spacious courtyards towards the sanctum sanctorum, I did not have any inkling of the wonderful experience I was to pass through when I finally saw the deity.

On reaching the innermost shrine we discovered that we were early, for the doors of the shrine had not been opened. We decided to wait there till someone came to unlock them. I leaned back against a pillar and began to think about Bhagavan's early life. Suddenly my thoughts started to materialise physically as scenes from his early life began to appear before my eyes as vividly as if I were watching a cinema film.

I saw very clearly Venkataraman writing the imposition in his uncle's house in Madurai. Leaving it aside, he sits bolt upright, closes his eyes and becomes absorbed in the more congenial practice of Self-absorption. His elder brother Nagaswami is watching him and rebukes him for neglecting his lessons. Venkataraman then decides to leave the house. He takes three rupees from his brother's college fees and departs after leaving a short note. He reaches the railway station. He buys a ticket to Tindivanam, gets into the train and sits quietly in one corner. A moulvi who is discoursing to other passengers notices him and asks him where he is going . . . . Scene by scene, I was enjoying this wonderful divine vision when the doors of the shrine opened and my vision was interrupted by the loud blowing of pipes and beating of drums. The people who were waiting with us stood up to get the Lord's darshan. I too mechanically stood up with the others. After this short interruption, my vision continued. Though the idol of Sri Arunachaleswara was before my eyes, I could clearly see Venkataraman getting out of the train at the Tiruvannamalai station. He then ran towards the temple. As he was coming nearer and nearer, the noisy music rose to a higher and higher pitch. Venkataraman entered the temple, ran to the shrine and embraced the lingam with both his hands. My feelings were ecstatic. My whole body experienced a divine thrill and tears of joy rolled down my cheeks. This state of sublime joy lasted a long time and was both indescribable and unforgettable.

Part III

FOR MOST OF THE DAY Sri Bhagavan used to sit on his sofa, which was adjacent to a window. Squirrels would occasionally come in through the window and run around near him. Sri Bhagavan would often respond to them by lovingly feeding them cashews or other foodstuffs with his own hand.

One day Sri Bhagavan was feeding the squirrels when a Muslim devotee, who had been watching him, gave him a note in which was written: "The squirrels are very fortunate because they are getting the food from your own hands. Your grace is so much on them. We feel jealous of the squirrels and feel that we also should have been born as squirrels. Then it would have been very good for us."

Sri Bhagavan couldn't help laughing when he read this note. He told the man, "How do you know that the grace is not there on you also?" And then, to illustrate his point, he started to tell a long story.

"One saint had the siddhi of correct predictive speech. This is, whatever he said came true. In whatever town he went to, the local people would come to him to have his darshan and to get his blessings. The saint, who was also full of compassion, removed the unhappiness of the people by blessing them. Because his words always came true, the blessings always bore fruit. That is why he was so popular.

"During his wanderings he came to a town where, as usual, a lot of people flocked to him to get his blessings. Among the blessing seekers there was a thief. He went to have darshan of the saint in the evening and asked for his blessings. When the saint blessed him, the thief was very happy. He felt certain that because of these blessings, when he went out to steal at night, he would be successful. But it turned out otherwise. Whenever he went to break into a house, somebody or other from that house would wake up and he would have to run away. He tried in three or four places but he could not succeed anywhere.

"Because of his failure, the thief got very angry with the saint. Early the next morning he went back to him and angrily said, 'You are an impostor! You are giving false blessings to the people.'

"The saint very peacefully asked the reason for his anger. In reply the thief narrated in detail how unsuccessful he had been during his attempts to steal the previous night. Having heard his story, the saint commented, 'In that case, the blessings have borne fruit.'

"How?" the thief asked with astonishment.

"Brother, first tell me, being a thief, is it a good or a bad job?"

"It is bad," the thief admitted, but then he defended himself by saying, "but what about the stomach that I have to feed?"

The saint continued with his explanation: "To be unsuccessful in bad work means that the blessings have indeed borne fruit. There are so many other ways of feeding the stomach. You should accept any one of them. To come to this conclusion it was necessary that you be unsuccessful in your thieving work."

"The thief understood and informed the saint that in future he would take up some other honest work. He prostrated before the saint and left."

Having narrated the above story, Sri Bhagavan asked the Muslim devotee, "Do you mean to say that if everything goes according to your desires, only then is it possible to say that the grace of a saint has worked?"

"I don't understand," replied the Muslim.

Sri Bhagavan explained in more detail: "The blessings of a saint perform the purificatory work of life. These blessings cannot increase impurity. One whose understanding is limited will ask for blessings so that he can fulfill certain desires, but if the desires are such that their fulfillment will make the seeker more impure rather than purer, the saint's blessings will not enable him to fulfill the desires. In this way the seeker is saved from further impurities. In that case, are not the saint's blessings a gift of compassion?" The Muslim finally understood and was satisfied by these words.

As Sri Bhagavan's fame began to spread, the number of visitors to the ashram increased. Many of them tried to offer him presents such as fancy sheets for his sofa, curtains for the doors and windows, embroidered carpets, etc. In order to satisfy the devotees who offered these things, Sri Bhagavan would usually allow his attendant to substitute for a short period of time the new offerings for the ones which were already in use. After a few hours they would be removed and sent away to the ashram storeroom, and the old, still-serviceable items would be brought back into use. Sri Bhagavan would briefly utilize these presents merely to strengthen the devotion of the donors. Left to himself, he would use cheap or old items, and never claim that they were his own. Devotees who tried to get him to use newer or better-made products could always count on resistance from Sri Bhagavan himself. I discovered this for myself when I tried to give him a new pen.

Sri Bhagavan generally used two fountain pens: one contained blue ink, the other, red. Both of these pens were quite old and looked, to me at least, worn out. One day the top cover of the red-ink pen cracked, so a devotee took it to town to have it repaired. It was gone for several days. During this period Sri Bhagavan reverted to an old-fashioned nib pen which had to be dipped in an ink pot of red ink. Since this seemed to cause him some inconvenience, I decided to get him a new pen. I wrote to a friend in Bombay and asked him to send one immediately. A few days later the pen arrived by post. I went straight to Sri Bhagavan and handed over the unopened parcel containing the pen.

Whenever a parcel or letter bore the name of the sender on the cover, Sri Bhagavan never failed to notice it. As soon as he received the packet from me, he turned it over and read the name of both the recipient and the sender. Having deduced that the parcel had been sent at my instigation, he took out the pen, carefully examined it, and put it back in the box. He then tried to hand the box to me.

Allowing it to remain in his hand, I explained, "It has been ordered from Bombay especially for Sri Bhagavan's use."

"By whom?" he asked.

"By me," I said, not without some embarrassment because I was beginning to feel that Sri Bhagavan did not approve of my action.

"What for?" demanded Sri Bhagavan.

"Sri Bhagavan's red-ink pen was out of order," I said, "and I saw that it was inconvenient to write with the nib pen."

"But what is wrong with this old pen?" he asked, taking out the old red-ink pen which had by then been received back in good repair. "What is wrong with it?" he repeated. He opened it up and wrote a few words to demonstrate that it had been restored to full working order. "Who asked you to send for a new pen?" demanded Sri Bhagavan again. He was clearly annoyed that I had done this on his behalf.

"No one asked me," I said, with faltering courage. "I sent for it on my own authority."

Sri Bhagavan waved the old pen at me. "As you can see, the old pen has been repaired and writes very well. Where is the need for a new pen?"

Since I could not argue with him, I resorted to pleading and said, "I admit that it was my mistake, but now that it has come, why not use it anyway?" My plea was turned down and the new pen went the way of all its forerunners: It was sent to the office to be used there.

Sri Bhagavan gave us an example of how to live simply by refusing to accumulate unnecessary things around him. He also refused to let anyone do any fund-raising on behalf of the ashram. In this too he set an example. He taught us that if we maintain an inner silence and have faith in God's providence, everything we need will come to us automatically. He demonstrated the practicality of this approach by refusing to let anyone collect money for the construction of the temple over his mother's samadhi. Though large amounts of money were being spent on it every day, we had to rely on unsolicited donations to carry on the work. I knew this from direct experience because one day the ashram manager asked me to get permission from Sri Bhagavan to go to Ahmadabad to ask for a donation from a rich man I knew who lived there. Sri Bhagavan, as usual, flatly refused. No amount of persuasion could move him from his categorical "No."

"How is it," he complained, "that you people have no faith?" He pointed to the hill and told us, "This Arunachala gives us everything we want."

In his early years on the hill Sri Bhagavan and his devotees lived on begged food. He had no objection to this form of begging. Indeed, as a teenager he had walked the streets of Tiruvannamalai, begging for his own food. What he objected to, when devotees went out to beg for their food, was asking for specific items. Devotees could only eat what was freely given.

In the period that Sri Bhagavan lived in Virupaksha Cave, visiting devotees would often leave food for the people who lived there. The resident devotees would beg for additional food if the donated food was not enough. If the combined total was insufficient to make a good meal for everyone, Sri Bhagavan would mix all the food together, add hot water and make a kind of porridge which would then be shared equally among all those present.

Devotees who found this homemade gruel unappetizing would sometimes request that at least some salt should be added to the mixture.

"But where are we to get the salt?" Sri Bhagavan would ask. "Who will give us salt unless we specifically ask for it? If once we relax our rule of non-begging in order to get salt, the palate that craves for salt today will next cry out for sambar, then for rasam, then for buttermilk and so on. Its cravings will thus grow endlessly. Because of this we should stick to our rule of non-begging."

It was certainly no joke to live with Sri Bhagavan in those early days. Sometimes the devotees had to do without salt, at other times without a substantial meal. There were even days when there was no food at all.

When Sri Bhagavan's mother came to stay with him she insisted on starting a kitchen. Utensils were needed for it, but how to get them without asking or making the need known? Some things were acquired easily. When the word spread that a kitchen had been started, many of the necessary items of equipment arrived unasked from devotees who lived in town, but some useful utensils were not forthcoming.

Sri Bhagavan's mother solved the problem merely by bringing it to his attention. It was well known that if Sri Bhagavan suddenly became aware that some needed item was not available in the ashram, it would often appear, unasked, soon afterwards. This happened far too often for it to be a coincidence.

One day, for example, a ladle was required. Instead of asking for it from some devotee, his mother told Sri Bhagavan about it. He merely replied "We'll see," but he didn't ask anyone to bring one. How could he, who had taken to non-begging, ask even for a ladle? But within a couple of days a devotee, of his own accord, brought half a dozen ladles and placed them at his mother's feet. When other vessels or utensils were needed, she would inform Sri Bhagavan and he would give his usual reply: "We'll see." Within a short space of time the required item would arrive. So, without breaking or relaxing Sri Bhagavan's strict 'no specific begging' rule, the kitchen at Skandashram expanded and thrived.

This did not only happen with kitchen items. During his stay at Virupaksha Cave Sri Bhagavan often developed a severe cough. During one of these attacks he took a bala harade (a small myrobalan or cherry plum) as a remedy, chewing it and swallowing its juice. This treatment lasted for a considerable amount of time, as a result of which the entire ashram stock of bala harade was consumed. When there were none left, the cough returned with more violence and vigor. Palaniswami, Sri Bhagavan's attendant, asked for permission to buy more bala harade from the town. Of course, the permission was not granted.

A few minutes later Sri Bhagavan casually remarked, "Harade (big myrobalan) is a better remedy than bala harade for coughing." Shortly afterwards a devotee entered the cave with a small bundle in his hand. He had come to pay homage to Sri Bhagavan.

Holding the bundle before him he said, "As I was coming here from my village, I saw a man sitting on the roadside selling big myrobalans. It struck me that it was good for coughing, so I brought some for Sri Bhagavan's use."

He opened the bundle and placed it before Sri Bhagavan, who asked him with a smile on his face, "But why did you buy so much?" The devotee replied, "It was quite cheap and the seller wouldn't agree to sell me a small amount. I had to buy all of them. Let them be here. Since I don't want any myself, let them stay here.

The idea of buying and bringing harade to the ashram thus coincided with the utterance of Sri Bhagavan's words. Can this coincidence be attributed to anything else than his strict observance of the rule of non-begging?"

At times, also to cure his cough, Sri Bhagavan used to chew black raisins.

These also ran out while Sri Bhagavan was still having coughing attacks. Palaniswami again requested Sri Bhagavan to allow him to buy more from the town, but his request was summarily turned down with the remark, "Let's see. Where's the hurry?"

A few minutes later Sri Gambiram Seshayya entered with a packet in his hand. "What have you brought?" someone asked.

"Raisins," was the reply.

"Then you must have known about our talk here," said Sri Bhagavan with a laugh.

"No Bhagavan!" said Sri Gambiram, folding his hands in namaskar, "How could I know in advance what was being talked about here? It just occurred to me when I started out from my house that I should bring something to offer here. When I went to the market, only one shop was open. In that shop only a small quantity of black raisins was available. There was nothing else there which could be useful here. So, I had to buy these black raisins. The thought of buying them never occurred to me before I entered the shop."

If there is a moral in these stories it is that all things flow towards the person who adheres strictly to the resolve of non-begging. Or, one could say that if one abides as the Self with the conviction that there is a Higher Power which arranges for all the necessary things to be supplied, then one need not go looking for them because they will arrive unasked.

Part IV

ONCE when Sri Bhagavan was very debilitated, the doctors recommended that he take some nourishing food. But he would not listen to them or the devotees who appealed to him to follow the advice. Some of them were earnestly begging him to eat thickly-buttered bread, others were trying to make him drink milk and orange juice. But to all of them he had only one answer to give. With his usual genial smile he would say, "But how can we afford to have such a luxurious diet? For us there can only be the poor man's rations."

"But what is the harm in changing one's diet for the sake of one's health?" ventured one devotee in a plaintive tone. "Even Mahatma Gandhi takes a special diet and Sri Aurobindo too does the same, to keep up their health. Please, therefore, take a tumblerful of orange juice, at least for our sake."

"But do you know the cost of a tumbler of orange juice?" asked Sri Bhagavan.

"Oh, only four annas," rejoined the devotee, with hope gleaming in his eyes.

"No, It won't be four annas. We will require about 200 tumblers of juice. Do you want me alone to gulp down the drink with all of you watching, empty-handed ? Moreover, how can poor people like us provide for 200 tumblers of juice, costing fifty rupees daily?"

This answer checked the devotee's pleas for a while, but he would not give up so easily. He still had a lingering hope that if once Sri Bhagavan started to take the nourishing diet, he would continue to do so for at least enough days for his health to improve a little. So, the next day, he quietly prepared hot rotis well smeared with ghee, and filled two tumblers, one with milk and the other with orange juice. Then, with the assistance of a few other devotees, he took all these things to Sri Bhagavan on a tray.

"What's all this?" he inquired as he saw them walking towards him. The devotees placed the tray before him, uncovered it and begged him to accept the offering. He refused point-blank even to touch the food, asking instead that the devotees should consume it. Repeated appeals to him from other devotees were also of no avail.

Then, in the heat of the moment, a woman devotee who was present at the time burst out, "O Bhagavan! Just as you are kind enough to agree to sit on your sofa - instead of on the floor like everyone else - for our sake, why not also favor us by taking this special diet?" Though the woman spoke these words in good faith, the outcome was quite the reverse of what was expected.

Hardly had she finished when, to her and the other devotees' dismay, Sri Bhagavan got down from his sofa and squatted on the floor. The woman was horrified by the consequences of her suggestion. She called out with anguish in her heart and tears in her eyes, "Bhagavan! No! Please don't! What a stupid woman I am!" Then she got hysterical and started screaming.

All the others stood around, aghast at what had happened. The remedy had turned out to be worse than the disease. The rotis, the milk, the juice were abandoned as everybody racked their brains to find a way out of this impasse and reseat Sri Bhagavan on the sofa.

It was certain that no appeal or argument would move Sri Bhagavan to change his decision. Eventually a devotee who had been associated with Sri Bhagavan for over thirty-five years resolved to take a desperate step. Without any fuss, he simply started lifting Sri Bhagavan bodily. Seeing this, one or two other devotees joined him and together they succeeded in placing Sri Bhagavan's body back on the sofa. Sri Bhagavan did not resist, nor subsequently did he try to come down from the sofa. But the devotees had been so upset by the incident that even after seeing Sri Bhagavan sitting quietly on the sofa again, they began to beseech him not to get down again.

Sri Bhagavan accepted the new situation graciously. Thus, a loving attempt by devotees to make Sri Bhagavan agree to take a special diet came to a fruitless end.

"From anger proceeds delusion; from delusion confused memory; from confused memory the destruction of reason; from destruction of reason one perishes."

So says Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 2, v. 63. Anger is often the root cause of man's decay because it makes him devoid of humanity.

Sri Bhagavan conquered his own anger by abiding as the Self. Since this is a seemingly impossible short-term goal for most people, I will offer an alternative method which Sri Bhagavan himself once suggested. A young man once came to Sri Ramanasramam and entered the hall. After prostrating to Sri Bhagavan he told him what he had come for: "Bhagavan, my senses are turbulent and fickle. Whatever I try to do, I cannot keep them under control. Please bestow your grace on me and show me the way to control them."

"Fickleness is due to the mind," replied Sri Bhagavan. "Once the mind is controlled, the senses will automatically be controlled."

"True, Bhagavan," said the young man, agreeing to the principle, "but I get excited even at trifles. The more I try to control my anger, the tighter becomes its grip on me."

"Is that so? But why on earth should you be angry at all? And if you want to be angry, why not get angry with your own anger." Explaining further, Sri Bhagavan said, "Whenever a fit of anger comes to you, direct it against your own self instead of wasting it on others. Be angry with your own anger. If you do this, your anger against other people will subside. This is the way to conquer it." Sri Bhagavan concluded by laughing, suggesting thereby that he was not being entirely serious.

Most of the devotees sitting in the hall joined him in his laughter, thinking that he had uttered the words as a joke. Only a few of those present seriously pondered over these valuable words and grasped the wisdom of this novel but useful way of controlling anger. We can remove a thorn in the foot by the means of another thorn. Then, when the first thorn is out, we can throw them both away. In the same way, Sri Bhagavan advises us to remove our anger against others by using it on ourselves. Then, afterwards, we can dispense with both angers.

Though he would usually get annoyed if devotees tried to give him special treatment, or if he saw people needlessly inflicting suffering on others, Sri Bhagavan could never be provoked to anger by anyamount of criticism or personal abuse. Two separate incidents illustrate this very well.

Once when Sri Bhagavan was sitting in his cave on Arunachala, a sadhu who was jealous of his increasing fame urinated on his back as a deliberate act of provocation. Sri Bhagavan remained as unperturbed and Self-absorbed as ever. Not a tinge of anger rose in him. The sadhu was baffled by his calm response. Realizing that nothing could irritate Sri Bhagavan, the poor sadhu quietly went away.

On another occasion, many years later, a young man visited Sri Ramanasramam with an evil purpose. After entering the hall and taking his seat in the front row, he began to put all kinds of aggressive questions to Sri Bhagavan. We found out later that he wanted to extort hush-money from the ashram by trying to expose Sri Bhagavan as a hypocrite and a fraud. He had already successfully tried his trick elsewhere, and by repeated practice he had cultivated this art into a paying profession. Having gained successes in other ashrams, he had come to Sri Ramanasramam to try his tricks there.

Sri Bhagavan's own method of meeting insolence, malice, jealousy and misbehavior in general was the observance of complete silence. This powerful weapon baffled and disarmed all aggressive and insolent visitors.

When the youth tried to draw Sri Bhagavan into a controversial discussion so he could catch him when he made a potentially embarrassing answer, Sri Bhagavan remained completely silent. The poor man could make no headway at all. He tried insults, he tried belching out foul language, but Sri Bhagavan did not utter a single word. He did not accept any of the insults or respond to them in any way. He merely remained calm, unperturbed and smiling. The young man, after exhausting all his insults, saw the impossibility of achieving his object. He had to admit defeat and quit the ashram.

What we call miracles would sometimes occur in Sri Bhagavan's presence. Faith in Sri Bhagavan has produced many a miraculous cure, but he would never accept responsibility for any miracle. For him, all these things went on automatically and were part of the natural activity of the Self. I can illustrate this very well by retelling a story which was told to me by an old devotee who had known Sri Bhagavan from his earliest days on the hill.

In 1908 Sri Bhagavan was staying in Pachaiamman Temple on the north-eastern side of the mountain. There were many tamarind trees nearby. The municipality gave the highest bidder the contract to collect tamarind from these trees every year. That particular year a Muslim had got the contract. Since these trees gave an unusually rich yield, the contractor himself used to protect them from the monkeys, driving them away by shooting stones at them from a catapult. Because he only wanted to scare them away, he took care to see that they were not injured. However, by some ill chance, a stone from his catapult hit a monkey on its head so hard, it died on the spot. Immediately, a large number of monkeys surrounded the corpse and began to wail and lament the death of their relative. Then, by way of complaint, they took the dead body to Sri Bhagavan in the Pachaiamman Temple.

These monkeys considered Sri Bhagavan as a friend and arbiter. He frequently settled their internal disputes and even acted as an honest broker when rival tribes were having territorial disputes. He could communicate with them quite easily and he did his best to establish peace and harmony among the warring tribes and their fractious members. So, at this time of anger and grief, it was quite natural for the monkeys to bring both the corpse and their complaints to Sri Bhagavan.

As soon as they came near him they burst into angry cries and tears. Sri Bhagavan, whose heart registered and mirrored the emotions of those around him, responded to their anguish with tears of his own. Gradually, though, his emanations of sympathetic love soothed and calmed the turmoil within the monkeys' hearts.

Then, by way of consolation, Sri Bhagavan told them, "Death is inevitable for everyone who is born. He at whose hands this monkey died will also meet with death one day. There is no need to grieve."

Sri Bhagavan's words and his loving kindness pacified the monkeys. They went away, carrying the corpse with them.

Two or three days later the Muslim contractor became bedridden with some serious malady. The story of the upadesa given by Sri Bhagavan to the aggrieved monkeys spread from mouth to mouth till it reached the home of the Muslim contractor. The members of his family became convinced that his sudden illness was due to the saint's curse. They therefore went to Pachaiamman Temple and began to plead for Sri Bhagavan's pardon for the ailing contractor.

"It is certain that your curse has affected him," they began. "Please save him from death. Give us some vibhuti (sacred ash). If we apply it to his body, he will surely recover."

With a benign smile, Sri Bhagavan replied, "You are mistaken. I never curse or bless anyone. I sent away the monkeys that came here by telling them the simple truth that death inevitably occurs to all those who are born. Moreover, I never give vibhuti to anyone. So please go home and nurse the patient whom you have left all alone."

The Muslims did not believe his explanation. They announced that they were not going away unless they received some vibhuti to cure their relative with. So, just to get rid of them, Sri Bhagavan gave them a pinch of wood ash from the outside of his cooking fire. On receiving it, their faces beamed with joy. They expressed their hearty gratitude to the sage and returned home.

The family and the contractor had great faith in this vibhuti. Soon after it was applied to the ailing man, he began to recover. Within a few days he rose from his bed, fully recovered.

Part V

This is the fifth and final chapter of Chhaganlal V. Yogi's remarkable reminiscences of Sri Ramana Maharshi. They were originally written and published in Gujerati. We express our appreciation to David Godman who skilfully edited the English translation.

Jagadisha Sastri

Jagadisha Sastri was a distinguished Sanskrit scholar whose association with Sri Bhagavan went back to the days when the latter lived in Virupaksha Cave. He told me the following two stories - neither of which has been recorded before - when I met him years later in Bombay.

In the early years of this Century, Jagadisha Sastri went to see Sri Bhagavan in Virupaksha Cave to listen to him giving a spiritual talk. Everyone was so engrossed in listening that no one was aware of the passage of time. As the talk did not end till well after midnight, Jagadisha decided to sleep in front of the cave instead of returning to town. This was considered a brave act because in those days there were still wild animals on the hill.

Around 2 a.m. Sri Bhagavan began to feel concerned about his safety. He went out of the cave and put a pinch of snuff up the nose of Jagadisha Sastri, who was snoring in deep sleep. Jagadisha woke up startled and began to sneeze uncontrollably. Sri Bhagavan laughed heartily and Jagadisha said the mountain reverberated with the noise of his laugh.

Once he had managed to stop laughing, Sri Bhagavan affectionately told Jagadisha, "You were sleeping so soundly. Don't you know that this is not a house but a hill? It is the home of wild animals and here their kingdom prevails. Suppose some tiger were to come here? What would happen to you? Go and sleep inside the cave."

Jagadisha told me that he was so sleepy at the time that he stumbled inside the cave and immediately fell asleep again. On hearing this story it did not surprise me that Sri Bhagavan had shown such concern towards one of his devotees. However, though I knew that he had laughed and joked and enjoyed playing games with devotees' children, I was astonished to hear that his humour had erupted in such a mischievous and childlike way in the middle of the night.

Many years later, when Jagadisha Sastri and I were walking down a street together in Bombay, it occurred to me that I had never seen him wear any kind of footwear. The black tar roads of the city got very hot in the summer and I found it hard to believe that anyone could walk comfortably without wearing sandals or shoes.

I turned to him and asked, "Sastriji, your feet must have got burned a lot walking on these roads, isn't that so?"

"No, no," he answered, "I have already got ravi raksha (protection from the sun) from Bhagavan. I may walk in any amount of heat but nothing ever happens to me."

I naturally asked, "How did you get this ravi raksha?"

By way of an answer, Sastriji told me a long story. "One day, right in the middle of the afternoon, Bhagavan took his kamandalu, got up and told me, 'Jagadisha, come with me to walk about on the mountain.'

"But it's so hot," I protested. "How can we move about in such weather?" I argued like this because I wanted to escape from the trip. Bhagavan found my excuse unsatisfactory. "You can move about in just the same way that I move about," he said.

"But my feet will burn!" I exclaimed. I didn't have any footwear with me and I didn't relish the idea of walking about over the burning rocks.

"Will my feet not burn as well?" replied Bhagavan, obviously feeling that this was not a serious obstacle. Bhagavan never wore any kind of footwear. He could walk on the toughest terrain in any weather without feeling the least discomfort.

"But yours is a different case," I answered, alluding to the fact that Bhagavan never needed footwear.

"Why? Am I not a man with two feet, just like you?" asked Bhagavan. "Why are you unnecessarily scared? Come on! Get up!"

Having realised that it was useless to argue any more, I got up and started walking with Bhagavan. The exposed stones had become so hot because of the severe heat of the sun that walking on them made my feet burn. For some time I bore the suffering, but when it became unbearable I cried out, "Bhagavan, my feet are burning so much! I cannot walk one more step. Even standing here is difficult. On all sides it is raining fire!"

Bhagavan was not impressed. "Why are you so scared?" he asked.

"If I remain in this terrible heat for any more time," I replied, "my head will crack open because of the heat and I will definitely die!" I was not joking. I really was afraid of dying.

Bhagavan smiled and said in a very quiet and deep voice, "Jagadisha, give up your fear and listen. You must have the bhavana (mental conviction and attitude) that you are the sun. Start doing japa of the mantra suryosmi (I am the sun) with the conviction that it is really true. You will soon see the effect of it. You yourself will become surya swarupa, that is, you will have the characteristics of the sun. Can the sun feel the heat of the sun?"

I followed this instruction of Bhagavan and started doing japa of this sun mantra because there was no other way to be saved from the burning heat. In a short time I began to feel the effect of the japa. The severity of the heat lessened and eventually I began to experience, instead of the severe heat, a pleasing coolness. As the burning sensation diminished I found that I was able to walk quickly alongside Bhagavan. By the time we had both reached Skandashram I found that my feet were not at all burnt as I had continued the mantra japa right up till the end of the walk.

Later, I was astonished to discover that the effect of chanting this mantra was permanent. Though I no longer chant it, I have never again suffered from the heat of the sun. I can now walk in the summer on the tar roads of a city like Bombay with bare feet."

One day an old lady came into the hall at Sri Ramanasramam. After prostrating to Sri Bhagavan she placed a slip of paper in his hands. I guessed that it contained a prayer or doubt of some kind because it was the custom of many devotees to offer their prayers or place their doubts before Sri Bhagavan in this manner. However, in this particular case, it turned out to be quite a different matter.

This old woman lived in town in a dilapidated temple and she needed money to repair it. With this purpose in mind she had got someone to prepare a draft of an appeal for funds. In order to collect the required amount more easily, she had hit upon the idea of having the appeal signed by eminent persons of the town. She had come to the ashram because she wanted Sri Bhagavan's signature at the top of the appeal. This was the piece of paper which she had presented to him. Sri Bhagavan read it and then returned it to her without uttering a single word.

"My work will be done if you will only put your signature on this appeal," the old lady said, urging him to sign.

Sri Bhagavan replied by saying, "It is well known that I never sign anything." She would not accept his refusal. Repeatedly she pressed him to sign, but she could not make him change his decision.

Finally Sri Bhagavan told her, "Yes, yes, you want me to sign your appeal, but how can one sign who has no name? What name will one sign?"

The old woman was puzzled. What did Sri Bhagavan mean by saying that he had no name? Was not his name Sri Ramana Maharshi? Since everyone knew him by that name, why could he not write these three words on her paper? Because she could not understand the significance of Sri Bhagavan's reply, she persisted in pleading with him to sign. Sri Bhagavan remained unmoved and kept silent. After some time the old woman gave up her attempts and left the hall, without, of course, having obtained Sri Bhagavan's signature.

Sri Bhagavan's language was that of silence. The speech delivered through this medium was full of miraculous potency, as the following anecdote reveals.

When he was staying in Virupaksha Cave, a District Collector and a Deputy Collector came there for his darshan. After prostrating to Sri Bhagavan, the District Collector began to speak, narrating at length all the sadhanas he had done and all the spiritual literature he had read. At the end of his speech he confessed that in spite of all these activities peace was as far from him now as it had ever been.

As soon as he had finished, the Deputy Collector began to tell his own story, which was equally long. These two speeches took quite a long time to deliver, but Sri Bhagavan did not interrupt them even once. He continued to remain in silence even after the speeches had ended.

The senior Collector gave up waiting for a reply and delivered yet another long speech. Sri Bhagavan listened in silence and continued to remain in silence when the speech was over.

The officer, not surprisingly, was a little put out by Sri Bhagavan's unresponsiveness. He said in an aggrieved tone of voice, "We have been speaking to you for a long time, but you don't open your mouth at all. Please tell us something. Anything, however brief, will do."

Sri Bhagavan finally spoke to them saying, "All this time I have been speaking in my own language. What can I do if you won't listen to it?"

The Collector was an intelligent man, well versed in spiritual matters. He caught the meaning of Sri Bhagavan's cryptic reply. Suddenly overpowered with devotion, he fell down at the feet of Sri Bhagavan and chanted a Sanskrit verse from Sankaracharya's Sri Dakshinamurty Stotra:

"Look at the wonder under the banyan tree! While the disciples are old and grey-haired, the teacher is a blooming youth. And though the Master's speech is simple silence, the doubts of the disciples are all resolved!"

Both of the visitors then abandoned their speeches and questions, preferring instead to sit before Sri Bhagavan in silent meditation. They got the peace they had come looking for and departed fully satisfied.

The greatness of silence as a medium of instruction can be further illustrated by another dialogue on this subject which took place between Sri Bhagavan and a devotee. Though it took place on a different occasion, it can serve as a commentary on the encounter between Sri Bhagavan and the two officials.

Q: What is the fruit obtained by mouna (silence)?

B: Anta mouna is self-surrender only. That means living without the ego sense.

Q: What is the meaning of mouna?

B: The state which is beyond speech and thought is called mouna. This is dhyana (meditation) without mental activity. Dhyana means controlling the mind; deep dhyana means permanent speech.

Silence is eternal speech; that is, the perpetual flow of language. By speaking, this flow is broken because the words create an obstacle to that silent language.

People may listen to discourses for hours, and may feel happy doing so, but still not improve. But silence, the eternal speech, enhances the welfare of all humanity. Mouna only means 'proficiency in speech'. Oral discourses do not have the 'proficiency of silence'. Silence is the eternal, unobstructed flow of speech. That is the supreme language.