T.S.Anantha Murthy

Sri Ramana Bestows His Grace

In 1937, T. S. Anantha Murthy was a judge working in a remote area of Mysore State when he noticed newspaper articles almost every week on Sri Ramana Maharshi and his teachings. Even in this faraway place he heard stories from scholars and pilgrims who had visited the Sage of Arunachala. Intrigued by what he had read and heard, it wasn't long before he and his wife made arrangements to make a visit to Ramanasramam. This visit is graphically described by Anantha Murthy in a biography he published of the Maharshi in 1972. The detailed account of his visit is simple and captivating, taking us into the ashram during those early days when there were few visitors and the Sage was easily accessible to all. What is particularly interesting is that Anantha Murthy, not knowing Tamil, talked to Bhagavan only in English, and also received replies directly from him in English.

Soon after his book, Life and Teachings of Sree Ramana Maharshi, was published, the author kindly sent a complimentary copy to our New York City Ashram. The following has been taken from Chapter sixteen, titled "Sree Ramana Bestows His Grace on the Present Biographer in 1937."

WITH BARE FEET, my wife and I and a companion entered the hall of the ashram. It was filled with devout men and women, who were all squatting on the floor. The hall had two entrance doors and half a dozen large windows. We entered through the door which was just opposite to the sofa on which Sri Ramana Maharshi was found seated. He was quite naked except for the white cotton koupina, or lioncloth. His sofa was in the north-eastern corner of the hall. There were heavy pillows covered with white cotton covers at the eastern end of the sofa and the sage was reclining on them with his two legs fully stretched towards the western wall. His large head was held erect and his large eyes were beautiful to look at. The eyeballs were milk white in colour. His eyes appeared to be looking at some spot on the opposite wall and his eye lids were not winking at all. Incense and sandal sticks were found burning in his vicinity and there was a pleasing perfume which we smelt. There was an unlighted petromax lamp hanging from one of the crossbeams of the hall. My wife and I felt awe as we stood and looked at the great sage. It was a memorable experience to behold a mahatma of his eminence. We humbly conveyed our reverence and then sat down. Women devotees were found seated separately and so my wife sat in their group. I sat down among the men.

For about thirty minutes, three or four brahmins, who were seated at some distance from the sofa, continued to recite verses from Taittiriya Upanishad. In fact, the recitation had started a few minutes before we had entered the hall. Sri Ramana continued to sit in the same posture till it ended. There was no movement of his limbs at all. His eyelids too did not move. He seemed to be listening to the recitation of the sacred verses.

Though he appeared to be looking at the wall, he was not seeing any particular thing. His mind was, as we could easily realise, absorbed within. I was astonished to see the sage keeping his eyes wide open without winking or moving the eyeballs for such a long period of time. Men and women who sat in the hall belonged to all castes and nationalities. Two or three devotees who sat near me were foreigners, sitting uncomfortably with their trousers. However, all were listening to the recitation with rapt attention. The brahmins concluded the recitation by chanting,

"Twameva pratyaksham brahmasi,
twameva pratyaksham brahma vadishyami,
satyam vadishyami, rtam vadishyami, tanmamavatu,
tadvaktaramavatu, avatu mam, avatu vaktaram,
aum santih, santih, santih."

This recitation was part of the Veda Parayanam, which was a daily function there. Those who recited the verses then stood up and prostrated to the sage and went out of the hall through the more distant door. I was familiar with the verses of Taittiriya Upanishad. The chanting was in the right style and I was thrilled while listening to it. I further felt that Sri Ramana, who sat in front of me in such an engrossed manner, was Brahman in human form and that spiritual illumination was enshrined in him. He was not only august to look at but also an inspiring figure. His ascetic garb and his well-chiseled face commanded awe and devotion. When such feelings were passing through my mind, Sri Ramana moved his head and looked around, and while doing so, he looked at me. There was benignity writ large on his broad forehead. There was simplicity and innocence in his movements. He picked up his walking stick and slowly moved out of the hall. I too came out and watched him walking slowly towards the hill on the northern side. The hill was the background of Ramanasramam. A half-naked, young attendant, carrying water in a kamandalam, followed the sage a few yards behind. Sri Ramana was tall and his arms long. His legs had lost their normal strength and so he carried his heavy body with some effort. His neck wobbled now and then, indicating that the muscles were weak. His age was just fifty-six years and three months and the hair on his head had turned gray. He and his attendant went away behind a boulder of the hill.

The Sarvadhikari of the ashram then approached me and said, "No ladies are allowed to stay in the ashram during nights, so your wife cannot stay with you in the guests' room. We have a house in town. Some ladies will accompany your wife and will also take care of her. She will be served a night meal there. Our ashram cart will take her and also bring her back in the morning." My wife and some other ladies sat in the ashram cart and in a few minutes left the premises. By that time it had become dark. Kerosene lamps were lighted here and there in the courtyard. It was the night of 31-3-1937.

After the ladies had gone away to town I was taken into the dining room of the ashram. It was a small tiled building in those distant days. It was situated a few yards to the south of the hall and it was lighted with some kerosene oil lamps.

On going into the dining room I saw some other visitors sitting on the floor in front of plantain leaves spread along the walls of the room. I too followed their example and sat in front of a leaf. There were no women among the people who sat for the night meal in the ashram. There was a slightly raised brick platform built on one side of the room. On it a plantain leaf was spread by one of the servants of the ashram. I guessed that it was intended for the use of the sage himself. Within a few minutes Sri Ramana walked into the dining room from another adjacent room, which then served as a kitchen. He sat in padmasanam on the platform in order to eat his supper, along with the visitors of that day. There was complete informality among the guests assembled there, though everyone of us looked at Sri Ramana with profound reverence. Devotees of the sage were serving as voluntary cooks and attendants. Some of them were young and some old. I was delighted to sit and take food sitting about five feet to the right of Sri Ramana on that memorable night. It was his grace that had enabled me and my wife to undertake the pilgrimage.

The meal served to everyone was quite simple. It consisted of rice, one vegetable curry, pickle, dahl, water and buttermilk. Sri Ramana ate his meal slowly. He did not leave any remnants of food on his plantain leaf. He did not speak with any one of the guests, though he looked at them. He was wearing only his usual koupina, while the visitors sitting that night before him were wearing shirts and dhoties. The servers were wearing only dhoties and they had no covering on the upper part of their bodies. Dim kerosene oil lamps were found burning in both the small kitchen and in the dining room. The supper was finished within fifteen minutes. It was about 7:30 in the night.

After the meal was finished, Sri Ramana stood up and walked out into the courtyard and washed his hands and feet with water that had been kept there in a vessel. I followed his example and washed my hands with water taken in a mug from the same big vessel. The other visitors too helped themselves in the same manner and dispersed. Sri Ramana then picked up his stick and slowly walked into the hall. I was eager to talk to him. So, I went behind him and entered the hall through the same door which I had used about two hours previously. Sri Ramana sat down on the sofa. A bright petromax lamp was then burning about twenty feet away from him. It illuminated the hall with sufficient brightness. I stood about three feet from him. There was no one else in that big hall. In fact, I longed to talk to him when there was nobody with us. The kind of opportunity which I was longing for was thus available to me without any special effort on my part. There was no need to draw his attention towards me. The merciful sage lifted up his face and smiled slightly. He did not utter even one word. He did not also make any other gesture. However, his gentle smile gave me sufficient courage to address him.

With folded hands, I said to him as follows: "Sir, I have come from Bangalore. I do not know Tamil. Please permit me to talk in English. I have not been in good health for some months. Dyspeptic troubles are the cause of my physical suffering. Doctors have not been able to cure me. My eyes are always burning and I feel giddy now and then. I have come here to obtain your blessings."

Sri Ramana heard these words patiently. He immediately lifted up his serene face once again and replied as follows: "All your troubles will disappear of their own accord."

These were the nine English words uttered by him in his mellow voice. I was filled with delight and gratitude on hearing the words of benediction so readily vouchsafed by the great sage. I prostrated to him and left the hall with my heart filled with joy and relief. I entered the guests room and slept by the side of another gentleman who had also come to the ashram to obtain darsan of the sage. It was a memorable occasion indeed. My long cherished desire to obtain darsan of Sri Ramana had thus been fulfilled. In addition to it, about two hours after I had set foot in Ramanasramam all my bodily troubles ceased to torment me as the result of the great blessing which I so readily received from the sage.

On the morning of April 1, 1937, all the women visitors who had been sent into town arrived in the same bullock cart. My wife also came with them and reported that arrangements at the women's lodge were satisfactory and that she had slept with five or six other ladies who had come from distant places. She and I entered the hall and sat down on the floor after prostrating to Sri Ramana, who was seated on the sofa in a state of samadhi.

The hall was more full with devotees than on the previous evening. Some of them were meditating with closed eyes. By then I had read the small book 'Who Am I?' and understood the method of vichara described in it. I too closed my eyes and started Self-enquiry within my own mind. The hall, though filled with men and women, was free from noise and peace reigned in the surroundings. I drove away my thoughts as and when they crossed my mind, saying to myself, "I am not this," and "this thought is not I," and so on. This is the kind of instruction found in that small book. My wife sat among the ladies and meditated in her own way and I engaged myself for a long time in the kind of meditation described above. More than one hour passed away. I then experienced a sense of total blankness.

At about 10 a.m. Sri Ramana moved his limbs and sat in padmasanam on the sofa. Taking advantage of that opportunity I approached the sofa and addressed Sri Ramana in English thus: "Bhagavan, I have till now been conducting self-enquiry as taught in 'Who Am I?'. I do not see anything. I see a blank. May I know if Atman is seen as a light, or is it a blank ?" Sri Ramana heard this question put by me. He sat up smartly on his seat and with a serious countenance replied thus: "What? Is THAT a blank?" He laid emphasis on the demonstrative pronoun 'THAT', which he had used in his reply. He did not say anything more. He sat as serenely as before and closed his eyes. I did not have the courage to put any more questions to clear my doubt.

AT ABOUT NOON, devotees began to disperse one after another. Only visitors like me and my wife remained in the hall. At about 12 o'clock the dinner bell was heard. Sri Ramana got up from his seat, picked up his stick and walked into the dining room. My wife and I and some other guests followed him and sat in front of plantain leaves spread on the floor by the attendants.

There were more guests than on the previous night. Some were women. Among men, some were Christians. One Mussalman guest was also sitting along with us. Some were foreigners. All castes of Hindus were represented in that dining room. Sri Ramana's habits were cosmopolitan. Cooks and servers were, however, all brahmins. Among cooks, there was a woman cook also. All were old devotees of the sage and they had volunteered to serve in the ashram by way of spiritual sadhana. Sri Ramana was seated on the raised platform and a leaf was spread in front of him.

During morning hours, there was no restriction of women's movements in the ashram. When all the guests were seated, the servers began to serve the midday meal. Echammal, a woman devotee of the sage, had brought cooked rice from her house in a vessel. She served a handful of it on Sri Ramana's leaf. She then served small quantities of it to the other guests of the day. She had been permitted to perform this kind of service, and I learnt that she had been doing so for many years. Her ancient story was ascertained by questioning some of the attendants of the ashram. She was old in years. She was dignified and quiet and did not speak with anyone. After rendering this kind of service, she went back to the town to take her own meal.

Though there was complete informality in the dining room, every guest ate food respectfully, looking at Sri Ramana at frequent intervals. Some of the guests were orthodox brahmins. They did not like to mingle with the non-brahmin guests. So they were made to sit in an adjacent room and the same articles of food were served to them by the same servers. The midday meal too was simple. It consisted of rice, pickles, vegetable curry, chutney, sambar, and buttermilk. The meal was finished in fifteen minutes. Sri Ramana stood up after he had finished the meal and walked out into the courtyard and washed his hands and feet and then went into the hall and reclined on the sofa for rest. His attendants closed the doors and asked visitors not to cause any disturbance.

My wife and I then went to the guests' room and rested there till about 4 p.m. Then we walked into the hall, which had been opened for visitors a little earlier. We humbly prostrated before the sage, who was seated on the sofa. He was looking around and he was in jagrat (waking) state. Devotees began to arrive and the hall was filled up within a short time. Then three or four brahmin pundits arrived. They first prostrated to Sri Ramana and sat down on the floor and began to recite or chant sacred verses just as they had done on the previous evening. As soon as they started to chant, Sri Ramana changed his posture and sat motionless. His lustrous eyes were open and he appeared as though he was staring at infinity. To borrow Paul Brunton's metaphor, Sri Ramana's bright eyes looked like two stars. Every one in the hall heard this Veda Parayana in strict silence. The chanting ended, as on the previous evening, with the recital of the following shanti mantra namely, Aum sam no mitrah sam varunah . . . Aum shantih, shantih, shantih.

Then, the pundits, who had chanted the mantrams, stood up and prostrated to Sri Ramana and walked out of the hall. It was his usual hour for the evening stroll on the slopes of the hill. He picked up his stick and walked away in the northern direction, attended by the same devotee, whom I had seen on the previous evening. All the ladies came out of the hall and most of them went away to their houses. My wife and other women visitors like her were sent away, as on 31-3-1937, in the ashram bullock cart into the town for spending the night in the town lodge referred to earlier. At about 7 p.m., a frugal evening meal was served in the dining room. After Sri Ramana sat down in front of his leaf, which was spread on the brick platform, I sat down along with ten or twelve guests and ate the same kind of meal as on the previous night. Strict silence was observed by all the guests and by the servers too during the meal. Sri Ramana looked at us now and then, but he did not talk with anyone. Talking with him in the dining room was not allowed. After the supper was finished, Sri Ramana walked back to his seat in the hall and sat down at ease.

A few minutes afterwards, some devotees and I entered the hall and sat for practising meditation. One big petromax light was brightly illuminating the hall as on the previous night. After some time had been spent in silent meditation, I felt the need to put a question to the sage. I stood up and noticed that Sri Ramana was sitting with his eyes closed. His benevolence gave me the necessary courage to go near him. When I went near the sofa with my hands folded in reverence, he looked up. I assumed that he had accorded permission to me for putting a question. I then said, "Sir, may I know what is meant by saying that Atman is light? May I know if Atman looks like the petromax light which is burning in this hall ?" Sri Ramana was pleased to give me the following reply in English. He said, "Atman is not a light like the petromax light. It is called light because everything else becomes known through It."

These simple words in English, employed by the gracious sage, cleared the doubt which had arisen in my mind. Sri Ramana became silent after instructing me in this manner. I then walked out of the hall and retired to the guests' room for the night.

At about 9.00 a.m. on the next morning, I was sitting in the hall of the ashram a few yards in front of Sri Ramana, who was seated in samadhi state on the sofa. Many men and women devotees were also sitting on the floor with their eyes closed. Perfect silence prevailed. We were all watching the sage, who was effortlessly sitting absorbed in the Self. To watch him was itself a great inspiration. An old brahmin pundit, who was till then sitting with his eyes shut, stood up and walked one or two steps forward and stood near Sri Ramana's sofa. This pundit was clad in silk upper anga-vastram and a dhoti beneath his waist. He wore two diamond rings on two of his fingers of the left hand. He had diamond-set earrings also. His tall forehead was marked by vibhuti stripes. There was also a big kumkum mark between his two eyebrows. He was a well built old man. He loudly addressed Sri Ramana in Telugu and spoke with a stentorian voice. He said, "Swamiji, many men and women are now sitting before you in order to get some instruction. You do not speak even one word. They too do not put any questions to you. They are all silently sitting to learn something. What are you teaching them? What are they learning from you? Please explain this secret to me."

Sri Ramana did not stir. He did not open his eyes or make any gesture to indicate that he had heard the loud words uttered by the old pundit. All of us were eager to listen to any answer that the great sage might give. The questioner stood for five minutes hoping that the sage would give a reply. However, the sage continued to sit with his eyes closed as before. The old pundit started to speak again and said in Telugu as follows: "My two questions have not been answered by you, Swamiji. I too cannot discover the answers. Please explain the matter by word of mouth." After having thus spoken, he continued to stand. Sri Ramana then opened his bright eyes and looked at the old pundit and replied in Telugu as follows: "What are you asking me? Is there any one here to teach others?" Unable to give an answer to the questions put by the sage himself, the Telugu pundit said again as follows: "If it is so, why are so many men and women sitting patiently in front of you? What profit do they derive by sitting in this hall?"

Sri Ramana, with a slight smile on his serene face, gave the following instructive reply. He said in Telugu, "The question must be put there. Why are you putting that question here?" When he used the adverb there, the sage stretched his hand towards the assembled devotees. When he used the other adverb here, he turned his hand towards himself. Such were his suggestive gestures and answers. From the words and gestures of Sri Ramana, I realized a profound secret. Other devotees assembled in the hall must have also realized the same thing. That was this: Sri Ramana had no notion or idea that he was a teacher or a Guru. Likewise, he had no notion or idea that the men and women sitting in the hall were ignorant and that they needed enlightenment. From the great sage's point of view, every one in the hall was Brahman or Atman. His drishti was that of a knower of Brahman. Knowers of Brahman have Brahman drishti.

On another day, I approached Sri Ramana and begged him to explain the following verse of the Kathopanishad, namely:

yame vaisha vrunute tena labhyay,
tasyaisha atma vivrunute tanum svam.

"It can be known through the Self alone that the aspirant prays to; this Self of that seeker reveals Its true nature."

In particular, I asked him to explain the significance of the verbs vivrunute and vrunute used in this verse. These verbs have been commented upon at great length by the ancient commentators. Sri Ramana was pleased to explain the matter in the following manner. He said, "This verse means that God will disclose his form to the devotee who surrenders himself completely. God is not partial to anyone. God confers His grace on all who surrender themselves to Him. God is the Atman in everyone." Sri Ramana's succinct exposition of this complex verse solved my doubts, which I had entertained till then. Scholars are aware that this verse is the second half of the twenty-third verse of the second valli of the first chapter of Kathopanishad.

I stayed for ten days at Ramanasramam, even though I had gone there with the idea of staying only for three days. My wife could not stay for so long a period because our children had to be looked after in Bangalore. They were all young boys in 1937. So, she returned to Bangalore after three days. The Sarvadhikari generously permitted me to be the guest of the ashram during that period. One morning I was sitting in the hall and meditating in the presence of the sage, just like other devotees. One verse of Kenopanishad had long been baffling my understanding. That verse runs thus:

Pratibodha viditam matam amrutatvam hi vindate,
atmana vindate veeryam vidyaya vindate amrtam.

"It is really known when it is known in and through every modification of the mind, for by such knowledge one attains immortality. By Atman one attains real strength, and by Knowledge, Immortality." - - - - - Kenopanishad (2-4)

I stood up and walked towards the sofa and drew the attention of the sage, who was sitting in the normal waking condition at that time. When he was pleased to look at me, I told him in English that I had difficulty in comprehending this verse of Kenopanishad and that I needed his help understanding it. Since I knew the verse by heart, I recited it. Sri Ramana heard the verse with attention when I recited it slowly. Then he desired to read the verse in the book itself. I did not have that book with me at that time. He asked his attendant to go to the library of the ashram and get a copy of the book. The attendant, who knew Sanskrit, went to the library and brought a copy of the said Upanishad. Sri Ramana took it in his own hands and then gave it to me and directed me to show the page on which it was found printed. I looked into the book and found the verse and showed it to him. The great sage read the verse silently and looked at me. I said that I had two difficulties in relation to that verse. The first question was if every vritti of the mind was Brahman, as indicated in the first half of the verse. The second question was if physical strength was attainable by a person who realizes the Atman, as indicated in the second half of the verse. I expressed these two doubts to him in simple English.

Sri Ramana then replied as follows: "Yes, everything is Brahman. Every vritti of the mind including grief or sorrow is Brahman. Every kind of strength, including physical strength, will be obtained by a person when he realizes his Atman." In this clear-cut manner, the merciful sage set at rest my doubts and answered my two questions.

I recall one or two more conversations I had with Sri Ramana. One day when practising meditation in the hall along with many other devotees of the sage, I could not concentrate my mind and I discovered that unwanted thoughts were disturbing my serenity. I desired to bring it to the notice of the sage and to learn how to surmount the difficulty. So, I went near the sofa and said in English, "Bhagavan, my mind is not steady today. What is to be done?" The great sage raised his head and recited the following verses of the Bhagavad Gita:

"One should raise oneself by one's Self alone; let not one lower oneself; for the Self alone is the friend of oneself, and the Self alone is the enemy of oneself." Chapter 6, Verse 5

"From whatever cause the restless and unsteady mind wanders away, from that let him restrain it and bring it under the control of the Self alone." Chapter 6, Verse 26

After quoting these two verses for my guidance, the benevolent sage, in his infinite mercy, added the following English words: "These two verses contain all the necessary instructions for gaining serenity of mind. All efforts must be made to become effortless." He then closed his eyes.

The last day of my sojourn at Ramanasramam arrived. On that morning, I took my breakfast sitting in front of Sri Ramana in the same dining room. Many other guests were also present. Some of them were newcomers. The usual breakfast of iddli and sambar and hot coffee was finished in ten minutes. Sri Ramana sipped the coffee slowly after reducing its temperature. On that morning, one or two fried vadais were also served by the attendants. I imagined that fried vadais were indigestible and so I told Sri Ramana that I was afraid to eat vadai. That was the first occasion when I had the courage to talk to him in the dining room. The sage looked at me with his delightfully pleasing eyes and said, "You will digest it. You may eat." Then my fears fled away and I ate the vadais without suffering any indigestion.

After the breakfast was finished, I purchased a photo of Sri Ramana from the bookstall of the ashram. I desired to get it from the hands of the sage himself. Carrying it in my hands I went into the hall and prostrated to Sri Ramana, who was seated in jagrat state. There was no one else in the hall on that occasion. That was a surprise to me. I told him that I had purchased his photo and that I desired to receive it from his hands. Having said so, I gave the photo to him. He graciously stretched his hands and took it from me and looked at it for half a minute without saying any word by word of mouth. He was pleased to give it back to me. I received it with great satisfaction.

Then, I wanted to obtain his blessings before I left the ashram. So, I went near him once again and stood for a minute looking at him. I addressed him and said in English, "Bhagavan, I have enjoyed great peace in your presence. Permit me to return to Bangalore. May I know if I can receive your help when I reach Bangalore? I pray for your benediction." The benevolent sage was till then reclining on the sofa. He dramatised the parting scene. He sat up vertically on the sofa and with a kind but loud tone he said in English as follows: "What? Is there time, place or distance for me?" After putting this question to me, he reclined on the pillows of the sofa and closed his eyes. His words and gestures were charming, instructive and benevolent. They indicated perpetual compassion and love of all who pray for his aid. His gracious words are ringing in my ears, even after thirty-four years.


Personal Touch

D.: Is the study of science, psychology, physiology, philosophy, etc. helpful for this art of yoga-liberation and the intuitive grasp of the unity of the Real?

M.: Very little. Some knowledge is needed for yoga and it may be found in books. But practical application is the thing needed, and personal example, personal touch and personal instructions are the most helpful aids. As for the other, a person may laboriously convince himself of the truth to be intuited, i.e., its function and nature, but the actual intuition is akin to feeling and requires practice and personal contact. Mere book learning is not of any great use. After realization all intellectual loads are useless burdens and are thrown overboard as jetsam. Jettisoning the ego is necessary and natural.

- Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi, No. 28,

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter