Dhiruben Patel

His Gaze Met Mine

By Dhiruben Patel

Susri Dhiruben Patel was residing in Santa Cruz, Bombay when a few devotees, led by Sri Vasant Kothari of Sri Ramanasramam, paid her a visit in May 2007. She is a popular novelist of Gujarat who, like her mother, received guidance and grace from Sri Bhagavan back in the 1940s. Dhiruben Patel had not visited Sri Ramanasramam since the year of Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi, in 1950. Feeling Bhagavan's call, and encouraged by the these devotees to make the pilgrimage to Tiruvannamalai, Dhiruben did travel to Tiruvannamalai later that same year. The text of this article was mostly taken from the video interview recorded during her visit to Sri Ramanas­ramam in 2007.

MY mother, Gangaben Patel, was a freedom fighter and a social worker. She was very badly shaken up along with the whole family at a tragic misfortune that occurred in 1944. My eldest brother met with a drowning accident, which my mother witnessed from the shore. After a few months, Mr. Chaganlal Yogi suggested that she should go to Sri Ramana Ashram.

At that time we were living in Santa Cruz, Bombay. When my mother came to Sri Ramana Ashram and saw Bhagavan for the first time, she was so much impressed that she came back to take the whole family to Ramana Ashram. So that is how I, my mother, my father and my newly-widowed sister-in-law came to Sri Ramana Ashram.

Those were the days of World War II, and at Villupuram some British soldiers wanted to get into our first-class compartment, so we were asked to vacate. We were made to lie down on the Villupuram platform the whole night. This was a very bad experience for me. Also, in the morning we got the bus to Tiruvannamalai rather late, so it was almost twilight when we reached the Ashram. I was so tired and so dirty that the first thought in my mind was to go and have a wash and a drink of cold water. But my mother . Oh, she was such a dictator . said, "No. As soon as you enter the Ashram the first thing you should do is to go and have darshan of Bhagavan." I was very reluctant, but those were not the days when children could argue with their parents, so I had to agree and I followed my mother. There I saw the Old Hall where Bhagavan was sitting along with one or two attendants standing nearby. Next to Bhagavan I saw a small vessel in which live charcoals were burning.

At that time I was 18; now I am 81. But I still remember it perfectly. I took that one step up to go into the hall to give my namaskar. I did it like this [she then demonstrates the same type of impatient joining of hands and bow that she made to Bhagavan]. I just wanted to get it finished as soon as possible. I was not interested in Bhagavan or having his darshan. Just because I couldn't defy my mother I had to do it. So with closed eyes, I just did it, and when I raised my head, well.I can't find words to describe what happened to me. As soon as Bhagavan's gaze met mine.he looked at me and in that very second it seemed that I was annihilated. I didn't exist any longer and there was a great sense of release and peace, and there was light, but not strong light. It was like a soft moon- light all around me, with no boundaries and no barriers anywhere. It was as if. I was lost in a sky of light and peace. And I don't know how many minutes or how many seconds I was in that state; it seemed a lifetime. And then, when I came back to my material existence, I just could not accept what had happened.

We stayed five days more and I had darshan of Bhagavan so many times, but that experience was never repeated. It happened only once, but it made me think very deeply and continuously: 'What was it? And how can I be in that state constantly?'

When on the next day we had our bath and sat in the hall along with the other devotees and Bhagavan was there and anybody who wanted to ask a question could ask, I wrote two questions on a piece of paper and handed it over to the attendant. He then told me that I should sit quietly and I will get the answers. But being young and impatient I was unable to wait very long, so after sometime I again bothered the attendant. I told him I was not getting any answers to those questions. It was not working [the silent questioning]. So I went near the couch where Bhagavan was sitting and insisted on getting my answers. Then, Bhagavan gave some answer, which of course I couldn't understand because he was talking in Tamil. There was a person to interpret and I asked him to explain Bhagavan's answers.

Those questions were, first (I had by then read a little of Bhagavan's philosophy, so I asked): "If two persons are lying down and one person has a dream of a tiger and he is frightened and the other person is awake sitting by his side, is it not the duty of the second one to wake up the dreaming person so that he will no longer be afraid? Why doesn't he do it?" That was my first question, to which Bhagavan gave the explanation that the dream state belongs to the person who is asleep and the person who is awake has only to wait for the moment of wakefulness occurring to the person who is sleeping. There is no question of saving the dreamer because there is no tiger.

And my second question was: "Bhagavan, when I look at the mirror for a long time and try to understand who I am, I don't get the answer, but on the contrary I feel frightened looking at my own reflection for a long time. So what should I do?" Then he told me: "Don't look at the mirror, why is it necessary to look at the mirror? Go inwards, think, and find out who you are." This incident happened on the second day of my visit.

After that we stayed for about four or five days more. And, well, being with Bhagavan and noticing his every movement and listening to his voice, I am unable to describe it in words. Being there with him was the most wonderful event of my life. The foremost was when he looked at me and I was transported.

Then the years went by till I came back again in 1950, knowing that Bhagavan was not well and he may not get well. He was on his couch and there was a bandage on his arm and people filed by, single file, going quietly. So, when I came near him I couldn't help saying, "Bhagavan, call me again." Then.with infinite com­passion...and immense love.he looked at me. Then he said, "Sari, sari," in Tamil. I didn't understand what that 'sari' meant. Somebody told me later that, it meant "Alright, alright." But it has taken such a long time. I have now come back and I am sure that he has called me back. But I have come after . how many years . fifty-seven years, almost. And I find the Ashram beyond recognition; it has expanded so much. But it's a very strange thing to say that I don't feel the absence of Bhagavan. I feel that he is here. I don't notice his absence. Perhaps it is because during all those years when I was away from Sri Ramana Ashram, I always felt that he was near me. And in my moments of happiness, in my moments of grief, when I was confused, when I felt that I have done something, I have achieved something, all these moments I have at some level communicated with him. And, I have received his grace, and now know that I am not the only individual who has. He has done this to everybody, the whole mankind.

When you are really facing a big problem or have some big question and you don't know where to turn or what to do, then Bhagavan really gives the answer in your heart of hearts.

I shall have to tell about a nephew of mine who was only two years old when he came here with my Mother. Bhagavan, as usual, was going for his walk after lunch on the hill, and all devotees were standing in a line. This boy, my nephew, also was there. Suddenly he saw Bhagavan and he ran to him and held his walking stick so firmly that he wouldn't allow Bhagavan to budge. Everybody was aghast watching this and requested the child to go away and not to bother Bhagavan. But he didn't listen. And for a long time he went on staring at Bhagavan. Bhagavan put his hand on his head. At once he let go of the stick and he started weeping . not loudly, but tears were streaming down his eyes while he just stood looking at Bhagavan.

This same nephew of mine we, unfortunately, lost three years ago, in 2004. When he was not well and in the hospital he used to tell me everyday, "Foie [Auntie], do you know what we are going to do as soon as these doctors leave me and I am able to go out?" I said, "I don't know." He said, "We will go to Ramana Ashram. That will be the first thing we will do. And only you and I will go there."

Now, physically, it is not possible because he is not here. So I thought that it is now my duty to go to Ramana Ashram. I thought that I will go alone, I will stay there and I will find out if Bhagavan's presence is still felt. Whether I am here or whether I am there, or whether I am anywhere, I tell you I feel that Bhagavan is with me always. And that is all due to the first wonderful moment when he looked at me.

My mother used rent a cottage here and stay for two or three months at a time. She was such a sincere soul and a self-educated woman. She had very little school education, hardly two or three years. Nevertheless, she learnt Hindi, English, Sanskrit and wrote in Gujarati. But when she came here she found that all this was no use because Bhagavan used to talk mostly in Tamil and rarely in English. But my mother had such an irresistible attraction towards Bhagavan and his teachings. She used stay here and meditate very regularly, in spite of all the other work that she was doing. What happened to her here, what she experienced, she spoke little.

One thing I can tell you is that once she suffered from a paralytic stroke and was not able to speak at all. After a month and half, gradually her speech began to come back. But then, it was not fluent and we could not understand all the time. For example, if she wanted her shoes, she will ask for soap and then would sometimes get annoyed because we couldn't understand her. Everybody was depressed about this and we felt sad that such a wonderful person as my mother may have to end her life in this condition. All of a sudden I remembered the evening parayana of "Upadesa Sarah" and recited one or two lines before her. My mother was at once alert and picked up the recitation and concluded the thirty verses without a single mistake or single faltering. After this she was able to recite Bhagavan's works and slowly she then became normal. She wrote her autobiography also.

In her last illness she made me promise that nobody should weep when she goes and also that Bhagavan should be with her, and that I am the one responsible for these requests. She insisted that I must do this. So I replied, "How can I do that? Who knows which is going to be the last minute in a person's life?" Still, she made me promise. And by God's grace and Bhagavan's blessing it so happened.

During her last moments I was there and this nephew of mine held a very big framed photograph of Bhagavan before her eyes. She quietly gazed at the photograph and then turned her eyes and passed away.

For various reasons, sometime after Bhagavan's passing, for about two or three years, my heart was full of agony. I had not studied Sanskrit scriptures or anything like that and so thought 'How can I find somebody who will teach me.' By great good luck, in Mount Abu, I came across Sri Gangeswaranandji Maharaj who accepted me as one of his pupils. He taught me everything and gave spiritual guidance also. But whenever somebody would ask him if I was his disciple, he would say, "No. She is the disciple of Ramana Maharishi, but she is my daughter and I am helping her."

And in many ways such as this, I have always felt Bhagavan's loving presence.

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter - September / October 2008 Vol. 18 – No. 5

Ome Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya