M. G. Shanmugam

An Early Devotee of the Master

M. G. Shanmugam, one of the early devotees of Sri Bhagavan, was so modest that he always refused to be drawn into the limelight. His Tamil biography of Bhagavan concluded with the early days at the present Ashrama, that is, with the 1930s. It is a pity he did not complete it, because Bhagavan had mentioned to others that he liked it. Fortunately M.G. Shanmugam left a few notes in Tamil on Bhagavan, his teachings and his own observations on spiritual sadhana. The following excerpts have been culled from these notes.

DURING my twenty-four years of personal association with Bhagavan I have noted that He seldom preached elaborately. He would give hints which keen seekers had to absorb carefully and follow faithfully in their sadhana. By close observation of Him and His actions and from His occasional words and terse expressions, one could definitely learn and properly follow His teachings.

He once said categorically, "For practicing Atma vichara every day is auspicious and every moment is good - no discipline is prescribed at all. Any time, anywhere it can be done, even without others noticing that you are doing it. All other sadhanas require external objects and a congenial environment, but for Atma vichara nothing external to oneself is required. Turning the mind within is all that is necessary. While one is engaged in Atma vichara one can with ease attend to other activities also. Besides, Atma vichara being a purely internal movement, one does not also distract others who are around; whereas, in sadhanas like puja, others do notice you. One-pointed perseverance alone is essential in Self-enquiry and that is done purely inwardly, all the time. Your attention on the Self within alone is essential." Some of Bhagavan's personal instructions to me:

(i) If you observe the breathing one-pointedly, such attention will lead you spontaneously into kumbhaka (retention) - this is jnana pranayama.
(ii) The more you humble yourself, the better it is for you, in all ways.
(iii) By withdrawing the mind within, you can live anywhere and under any circumstances.
(iv) You should look upon the world only as a dream.
(v) Do not allow your mind to be distracted by objective things and by thoughts. Except attending to your allotted duty-work in life, the rest of your time should be spent in Atma-nishta (Self-abidance); do not waste even a second in inattention, lethargy.
(vi) Do not cause even the slightest hindrance or disturbance to others. Also, do all your work yourself.
(vii) Both likes and dislikes should be equally discarded and eschewed.
(viii) With attention focused on the first person and on the Heart within, one should relentlessly practice Who am I? When this is done one-pointedly, one's breathing will subside of itself. During such controlled practice, the mind might suddenly spring up; so you have to vigilantly pursue the vichara, Who am I?

To remain silent without thoughts is the Whole;
To remain without thoughts is Nishta;
To remain without thoughts is Jnana;
To remain without thoughts is Moksha;
To remain without thoughts is Sahaja.

Therefore, the state without any trace of thoughts is the Final State of Fullness, indeed!

From M.G. Shanmugam's personal diary (in Tamil) the following interesting anecdotes are gathered:

When we were living at Darapuram and I was seven years old, I was initiated into Linga puja. Such traditional upbringing gradually involved me in the study of the Sastras, doing japa, bhajan, saguna and nirguna dhyana and regular puja three times a day. During this period I also had three gurus. I came to the conviction that the highest human attainment was the state of Jivanmukti. I was then at Tiruchengode (1921-1925) studying in college. When I was 18 years old, I fervently prayed that I should meet a Jivanmukta and receive his blessings.

My prayers were soon answered! My father, a police officer, was transferred to Tiruvannamalai. I came to know of Bhagavan Ramana living there. I gave up my studies and rushed to Arunachala. At Katpadi, while travelling in the train towards Tiruvannamalai, I had a remarkable vision of Bhagavan. Thus my Sadguru came to me and absorbed me even before l could have His physical darshan!

When I arrived at the Ashrama, Bhagavan gave me a warm welcome with a benign smile. As He was seeing me for the first time, His two spontaneous utterances surprised me. Like an affectionate mother, He asked me, "When did you come?" and "How is your right hand?" My right hand was badly fractured when I was 14-years-old and though it healed up the hand remained bent and short. I used to cover it up with full sleeves and even my friends did not know of this serious deformity. How did Bhagavan know about it? And what affectionate concern He showed! After Bhagavan inquired about it, my sense of inferiority because of the defect totally disappeared. More than all this, He asked me to be seated in front of Him. Gazing at Him I sat down and I do not know what happened to me then. When I got up two hours had elapsed. This was an experience I had never had before and I have always cherished it as the first and foremost prasad and blessing received from my Sadguru. That day I understood the purport of the statement, "The Sadguru ever gives unasked!" That moment I knew I had been accepted into His Fold. This strong bond He allowed me to enjoy until His Mahasamadhi, and even after.

Daily I would go to him by two in the afternoon and return home only at 8 p.m. My father, who was a staunch devotee, was instrumental in constructing, in a remarkably short time, the Old Hall where Bhagavan was to stay for more than twenty years. Bhagavan would quote from Ribhu Gita, Kaivalya Navaneetam, Jnana Vasishta and other Advaitic texts and explain to me their greatness. All the while I was aware I was in the blissful presence of a Brahmajnani, so highly extolled in all our scriptures.

He was a sarvajna (all-knower). I got many proofs of it, though I never demanded them. Daily pocket-money of three annas was given to me by my father. I bought for that amount sambrani (incense) which was burnt in the presence of Bhagavan. One day I did not get the three annas, so I could not buy the sambrani. I Therefore refrained from going to Bhagavan that day. The next day when I went, Bhagavan graciously remarked: "Yesterday you did not come because you could not get sambrani. Veneration in the heart is enough."

"My father was suddenly transferred to Vellore. None of us, particularly myself, wanted to leave Tiruvannamalai since darshan of Bhagavan would then be denied. We ventilated our grievance to Bhagavan. He gave me a benign smile. A few days after, strangely, the transfer order was cancelled!

Apart from the greatness of Bhagavan's Presence and the tremendous power of His silence, I noticed the strange way the doubts in one's mind got answered through someone else present in the Hall. The doubt you had, somebody in the Hall would express to Bhagavan and Bhagavan would not only give the answer but look at you with a smile, as if to say, 'Has your doubt been cleared?'

Bhagavan would be seated like a rock with eyes open for hours together and silence would pervade the Hall. Everyone's heart would be filled with peace and stillness. This silence was His real teaching!

- From Moments Remembered, Chap. 14

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter