Srimati Kanakamma

Srimati Kanakamma doesn't need much coaxing to speak about the wonder of Sri Bhagavan and the blessings he showered on her. In the following videotaped interview, taken in Madras by Graham Boyd in March, 1999, she pours out her experiences and insights. These are only excerpts translated from Tamil by V. Swaminathan of New York.

How to speak?

I would sit silently before Bhagavan. I was unable to ask him questions. But I would listen attentively whenever he answered others' questions. After all, even if I asked him, the replies would be the same. Occasionally, when I felt like putting a question to Bhagavan, something within me would ask, "Would Bhagavan know about your doubt only if you asked him? Is he not within you also? Is it necessary to put your doubts in words?" Such thoughts would prevent me from speaking out. But again, I would observe devotees like Devaraja Mudaliar, G. V. Subbaramayya, Sambasiva Rao and others converse freely with Bhagavan and wonder: "These people are so free with Bhagavan, then why not me too?"

In those days, Bhagavan was sitting in the Jubilee Hall. I would enter from the Old Hall and Bhagavan would be able to see me only after I turned into the Jubilee Hall. A wall would obstruct his view until then. In the Old Hall, I would muster courage and resolve that I would definitely speak to Bhagavan on that day. But the moment I turned into the Jubilee Hall, all my courage would evaporate. I would almost feel something tangibly dropping away from me, as if something was being emptied out. My walk would slow down considerably. Beyond a point, I'll practically have to drag myself towards Bhagavan. To compound matters, on some such days, Bhagavan would look directly at me. I could not bear it when Bhagavan looked directly at me. The intensity of his gaze would push me inwards. In such situations, I would just prostrate and sit down quietly, not even bothering to go up front near him. Bhagavan's look would push me inside and I would sit quietly there for the whole day. This is what would happen to me again and again in His presence.

Eager to talk to Bhagavan I sought the help of Anandammal, who often sat next to me. "I want to talk to Bhagavan," I told her, "but I am unable to bring myself to do so. However, despite the absence of words, I still get the peace and satisfaction that I would if I talked to him. What should I do?" Anandammal smiled and remained silent.

The next day I wanted to go for a pradakshina around Arunachala. As I could not go alone, Anandammal would accompany me. When I went to take Bhagavan's permission at about 5 a.m., no one else was present. I thought that this would be my best opportunity to speak to Bhagavan. As I prostrate before him, I thought, "What do I ask him?" On such occasions, I would think, "What do you know? What will you ask this divine being at whose very sight you become tongue-tied?" All my questions would then remained bottled-up inside me. On that day, somehow mustering courage, I managed to speak out, "Bhagavan! I am going for pradakshina." I did not know what else to say. Bhagavan, who was reclining on the sofa came forward towards me and said, "Uh! What?" I then realized that although I requested permission to go for pradakshina, no sound came from my mouth. Only my lips moved. Again, I tried telling Bhagavan, with the same result. Bhagavan then said, "Oho! So you are going for the pradakshina? Who is accompanying you?" Anandammal, who had come to the hall by then and was standing beside me said, "Bhagavan, I am going." Bhagavan said "Very Good! Very Good" and gave a beatific smile. Thus, despite several opportunities to do so, I was never able to speak to Bhagavan. So how could I ask him anything? And what was I to ask? Some people told me to ask him whatever doubts came to me in my sadhana. But then it would occur to me that If we did sadhana the way Bhagavan asked us to, then there is absolutely no room for doubt. Such doubts are only on account of our own mistakes in not following Bhagavan. Thus, I never asked Bhagavan any questions.
Look of Grace

This incident took place when Bhagavan had moved into the new hall. During those days, the front row closest to Bhagavan was reserved for important people, although Bhagavan did not know about it. There was a specific unspoken seating arrangement and others who occupied those places would even be asked to go and sit elsewhere. On this day, Rani Mazumdar and myself were sitting by the window at the end of the hall when we noticed that the front row was empty. Rani suggested that the two of us could sit there close to Bhagavan. I agreed. The front row would begin at the pillars closest to Bhagavan's couch. No one could sit right beside the couch in order to give people room to move about. On seeing the two of us, a telugu lady called Kameswaramma also came and sat next to us in the front row. The three of us were directly facing Bhagavan.

As soon as we had settled there, Bhagavan began looking directly at me. Unable to bear the intensity of his direct look, I immediately closed my eyes. How long I remained like that I do not know, but sometime later, I opened my eyes and found Bhagavan seated motionless looking at me just as before. Again I closed my eyes. Sometime later, Mauni Srinivasa Rao came with the day's mail. Hearing Bhagavan talk to him, I opened my eyes. However, I was still in the same state that I was in when my eyes were closed and whatever was happening didn't really register in my mind. After attending to the correspondence, Bhagavan got up to leave for the cow shed. I got up along with everybody else but again without any real awareness of my surroundings.

Kameswaramma, who was sitting next to me, hugged me and said, "Kanakamma, you are extremely fortunate. Ever since you sat there, Bhagavan has been steadily looking directly at you up until the Mauni came with the mail. You have got everything. Bhagavan has given you all that you need." So saying, she hugged me close to her. But I was in no state to give a reply. I just told her, "Tears are streaming down my eyes. I don't know what to say." The waves of peace coming over me kept me from talking.

The Power of Bhagavan's Presence

Several prominent personalities and people of high social standing, wealth and prestige would visit Bhagavan. Seated inside the hall, when I observed them coming to meet Bhagavan, I could see that they were very conscious of their status, position and power. Their walk and bearing would clearly display such a consciousness. However, the moment they crossed the doorway into the hall and walked into Bhagavan's presence, there would be a remarkable transformation in their behavior, almost from tiger to kitten. Without being told anything, they would automatically fold their hands and stand bowed in respect before Bhagavan. We may see a form sitting on the couch, but the real Bhagavan is the spiritual force radiating everywhere that subdues everybody's ego even as they enter his presence. Everyone has to remove their ego and leave it outside, as it were, and sit quietly in Bhagavan's presence.

Another thing about Bhagavan was that his look would never vary irrespective of whether the person is a long-standing devotee or somebody visiting casually for the first time. It is we who interpret his looks according to our own state of mind. There would be no differentiation in his looks. Still, everybody could tell what he wanted to convey by his look. Such was the characteristic of Bhagavan's look, and it was unique to him.
His Continued Presence

The wonder of Bhagavan is this: At least people like us were fortunate to see Bhagavan in the body and live with him. Our attraction to Bhagavan was greatly enhanced by being able to observe him in daily life. But even if one goes to Sri Ramanasramam today, one can see devotees enter the hall with tears in their eyes, prostrate before Bhagavan and meditate, for how long even they do not know. Whenever they learn about some old devotee of Bhagavan who is still alive, they immediately seek them out and tell them, "You have been so fortunate to live and meditate in Bhagavan's physical presence. We get such peace of mind even in our short and infrequent stays here." For people like us who have lived with and enjoyed the physical presence of Bhagavan, being devoted to him is no great deal. What happened to me would have happened to you also had you been there in my place.

Today, I find people who have never seen Bhagavan physically, never heard his voice or listened to his upadesa, sit in the Old Hall or the Samadhi Hall, oblivious of themselves, often shedding tears, and going round the hall as if impelled by some unseen force. What gives these people their experiences? As Bhagavan always said, "Is this body Bhagavan?" When somebody expressed sadness at having to go back home from the Ashram, Bhagavan said, "What am I to do? You say that this body is Bhagavan. I say that it is not. Now, if you insist, what am I to do?" To others, he would say, "Look! He says he is going to a place where I am not." These new devotees of Bhagavan are proof of all he told us.

In those days, one could count the number of devotees on one's fingers. Today, there is not enough space in the meditation hall and we have devotees sitting in the Samadhi Hall and the Mother's Temple. A new dining hall has become necessary. It is Bhagavan's wonderful shakti that draws people here and keeps them here. After all, it is said that one gets moksha when one even thinks of Arunachala. There is hardly a person who does not long to return to Arunachala even as he is departing after a visit. He would leave wondering when he would have the next darshan of Bhagavan. Only now he refers to Bhagavan's samadhi rather than his physical body.

It was in Arunachala that goddess Ambika became one half of Lord Shiva. Hence, in Arunachala, the meditations of women will definitely attain fruition. Also, there are no temples for the mothers of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, but Bhagavan himself had a temple built for his mother Alagammal in Arunachala. Nobody can say how big the Ashram will grow in the future.

In fact, Bhagavan's power and influence have grown stronger since his Mahasamadhi. Muruganar once said "Bhagavan's real power will be seen not now, but only a few hundred years after his physical body is no more. But we will not be around to see those days".

Just as Bhagavan used to guide devotees when in his body, he continues to guide people who come to him in the same way, in accordance with each person's temperament. Immediately after Bhagavan's mahasamadhi, even I used to wonder how I could continue to stay at the Ashram. While most devotees left the Ashram then, they all came back, just like the birds to the "pai maram". Today, the number of devotees has multiplied a hundred times over. Everywhere we have Ramana Kendras and Ramana Bhakta Sabhas. I don't have the competence even to speak about Bhagavan's shakti. See, these people are so eager to videotape me speaking about Bhagavan. Isn't this also Bhagavan's doing?

As the mind tends to go out, turn it inwards then and there. It goes out owing to the habit of looking for happiness outside oneself; but the knowledge that the external objects are not the cause of happiness will keep it in check. This is vairagya or dispassion. Only after perfect vairagya the mind becomes steady.

—Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi, No. 344

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya

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