Yogi Ranganathan

My Boyhood Friend and Classmate

By Yogi Ranganathan

MY FATHER who was an Inspector of Police, was transferred to Tiruchuzhi in 1885. Bhagavan's father Sundaram Iyer was then practicing there as a vakil. The two became close and intimate friends. I was a classmate of Bhagavan and my elder brother that of Bhagavan's elder brother in the local school. Our two families moved on the friendliest terms, almost as close relations. About the middle of 1888 my father was transferred to another place and we left Tiruchuzhi.

Bhagavan and his brother went to Dindigul for education and from there came to Madurai to continue their education. By that time we had also come to Madurai for our education. Bhagavan was first studying in the Mission School, and I in the Native College. But both the institutions were adjacent to each other. If my school closed earlier I would wait for Bhagavan; and if his school closed earlier he would wait for me. I and my brother, Bhagavan and His brother and a few other boys would go to the Vaigai river, play on the sands and return home. I was just one year older than Bhagavan. Bhagavan left Madurai in August 1896.

After that, I visited Bhagavan for the first time only after a long interval, along with my wife, mother and daughter. I asked whether he recognised me. He replied as if speaking from the back of his throat "Rangan", (In those days Bhagavan spoke rarely and he had almost lost speech through disuse) and turning to Palaniswami pointed out my mother to him and asked him, "Do you recognise this lady?" He replied, "Yes. She came when Bhagavan was at Pavala Kunru." I spoke to Bhagavan for some time and then while taking leave of him said, "You have attained a great stage." He replied "Distance lends enchantment to the view." By this he meant, as I later learned from many of his teachings directly and indirectly to me, that a householder's life was as good as that of an ascetic, and could equally lead one to Jnana.

On my next visit, when I was still ten or fifteen steps from Skandasramam, Bhagavan who was then cleaning his teeth near the parapet wall, observed my coming and told his mother, "Mother, Rangan is coming." She said, "Let him come. Let him come." When I went and got up after prostrating before Bhagavan He said, "It is a rare privilege to get the darshan of saints. It is good to go and visit them frequently. They will weave the cloth and give it to you." From this I gathered that if one had Bhagavan's Grace one could gain Jnana even without any effort on one's own part.

During my next visit, when Bhagavan, his mother and I alone were present, I told Bhagavan's mother, "I have also a right to a share in all that Bhagavan has gained." Mother asked Bhagavan, "Did you hear what Rangan said?" Bhagavan laughed and said, "Is he not also one of us? He has also a share."

Another time, I came to Bhagavan on my way to Madras where I wanted to try for a job. When I got up after prostrating, Bhagavan asked me, "Males can go anywhere and eke out a livelihood, but what arrangements have you made for your wife and children?" I replied, "I have provided for them." I stayed for a few days with Bhagavan and then went away to Madras. A few days later my elder brother visited Bhagavan and Bhagavan made kind enquiries of him whether my wife and children were getting on well, without any hardship. My brother told him, "He left some money when he started for Madras. All that has been exhausted now and they are suffering great hardship," and went away to Madurai.

When, after making some efforts for a job at Madras, I returned to Bhagavan he said, "You told me you had provided for your wife and children. Your elder brother told me they are undergoing hardship." I did not reply, for Bhagavan knows all and is also all powerful. I again went to Madras, and finding my efforts for a job there were in vain, returned to Bhagavan and stayed with him for some time. During that time, one night, when I was sleeping outside on a double cot that was lying there, Bhagavan suddenly came and sat near my feet. Seeing this I got up. Bhagavan asked me, "What is the matter with you? Are you restless and not getting sleep because of your family troubles? Would it be enough for you if you get rupees 10,000?" I kept silent. Once when Bhagavan and I were going round the hill he said, "There are herbs on this hill which could transmute base metals into gold." Then also I kept silent. Bhagavan used often to joke with me and laugh asking "Oh! Are you suffering very much?" He then told me, "When a man sleeps he dreams he is being beaten and that he is suffering terribly. All that would be quite real at that time. But when he wakes up he knows it was only a dream. Similarly when Jnana dawns, all the miseries of this world would appear to be merely a dream." In a few days, I returned to Madurai and through a friend got a manager's job in a motor company. Later, I was also appointed as an agent for the sale of buses in Ramnad and Madurai by another company, with a commission of 5 percent on all sales effected by me. From this and in other ways I got rupees 10,000; and I spent them on the marriages of two of my daughters and for clearing off debts. I never used to mention my family troubles to Bhagavan, nor ask Him for anything. He was himself looking after me and my family, so why should I make any requests for this or that in particular? I left everything to him. I used to tell Bhagavan frequently, "I have entrusted my body, possessions, soul, all to Bhagavan. The entire burden of my family is hereafter yours. I am hereafter only your servant, doing only your behests. I am a puppet moved by your strings." Bhagavan used to laugh and say "Oh, Oh." It never occurred to me to ask him for any wealth.

Once, at Skandasramam, when Bhagavan was standing, I felt his legs from his knees downwards, running my hands over them and remarked to him, "When in the old days we frolicked, romped and played together, I used to feel as if I was pricked with thorns whenever your legs came in contact with my body, your skin then having been so rough and scaly. But now I find they are very soft, like velvet." Bhagavan replied, "My body has completely changed. This is not the old body."

One day Bhagavan told me, "Let us go to Pandava Tirtham and swim in it. Can you swim now?" I replied I had not forgotten swimming and would go with him. The next morning at 3 a.m. we both went accordingly, swam there, and played in the water as of old and returned before people could come there for their daily bath. Bhagavan told me, "Let us go like this from tomorrow. But we must go early and return before people come there for their baths." I said "Yes." We swam like this for a few days.

One day, before dawn, when I was restless in my bed, rolling from one side to another, Bhagavan came to me and asked, "Are you not getting sleep? What are you worried about?" I told him, "I am thinking of taking up Sanyasa. If I do it here my people would discover it. So, I want to go away to a distant place like Varanasi and become a Sanyasi there." He at once went and brought Bhakta Vijayam, read out from it the portion dealing with Vitoba's determination to remain a Sanyasi in a forest and the advice of his son Jnana Dev, that the same mind goes with a man whether he stays at home or retires into a forest, and told me I could attain Jnana continuing to be a householder. Thereupon I asked Bhagavan, "Why did you become a Sanyasi?" He replied, "That was my destiny," and added, "Though it is irksome to remain a householder, it is easy to attain Jnana that way."

Once at Skandasramam, after Bhagavan and I had a bath and he was drying his body with a towel, I noticed that down from his knee to his ankle the skin had peeled off and blood was oozing. I asked him what the matter was with his leg. He said he did not know. I asked, "Is it not from your legs that blood is oozing? You seem to know nothing about it!" He replied very casually, "When I was sitting down, the fire from the charcoal brazier in which incense powder was being burnt might have burnt my skin and caused this sore." I at once sent for some ointment and applied it to his legs. From this I learned how, completely detached from his body, Bhagavan lived only in the Self.

One day, Bhagavan and I went round the Hill by the forest footpath close to the foot of the hill. After I had gone a little distance on that path full of thorns and sharp stones, I ran a thorn into my foot. When I lagged behind Bhagavan observed me, came to me, removed the thorn, and said, "Now there, come on." Then I proceeded with him. After a few yards, he ran a thorn into his foot. Noticing this, I ran up to him, lifted up his foot and saw marks of several thorns there. Then I examined his other foot and found several marks there too. Thereupon he said, "Are you going to remove the new thorn or the old thorns?" So saying, with the greatest indifference, he pressed his foot on the ground and drew it forward, and the thorn broke. He then proceeded on the hill round, asking me to accompany him. I was convinced that he was living completely detached from the body. I further imagined that both these incidents were designed by Bhagavan to impress upon me that Bhagavan was not his body.

On another occasion Bhagavan said to me, "You think you are undergoing great troubles. Hear some of mine: I was once climbing the hill up a precipitous track and when I caught hold of a rock above, the rock slipped down, and I fell on my back. The rock that slipped down and other rocks which it brought down fell over me. I managed to remove the rocks that were covering me, and to come out. Then I found my left thumb was missing from its place and was hanging near the little finger. I forcibly brought it back to its place and fixed it there." At that stage in the narration Bhagavan's mother came out with the remark "Don't ask for that horrid story. He came with blood all over the body. It was too heart-rending a spectacle." I cannot understand who came and removed the rock, treated his wounds and fixed up the thumb. Who was the Doctor?

One day Bhagavan's mother told me in his presence that once when he was standing she saw various kinds of snakes all over his body, round his neck, chest, waist and legs and got terribly frightened; and that after a while the snakes went back to their places. I believe that was one of the visions vouchsafed by Bhagavan to his mother to wean her from the belief that Bhagavan was her son and to impress on her that he was God Himself.

Once at Skandasramam when Bhagavan, his mother and I alone were present, mother said as follows: "About ten days ago, at about this time (i.e., 10 a.m) as I was looking at Bhagavan, his body disappeared gradually into a Lingam like the one in Tiruchuzhi temple. The Lingam was lustrous. First, I could not believe my eyes. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It was the same sight still. I became frightened that he was leaving us. But again gradually his body appeared in place of the Lingam." On hearing this I looked at Bhagavan. He smiled at me. From this I gathered he was confirming mother's account. When I returned home I mentioned this to the members of my family. My eldest son was writing an account, as he termed it, of Bhagavan's marriage with his bride Jnana, and he included the above incident in it. Later when that work was being read out before Bhagavan by my son, when the portion relating to this incident was read, Bhagavan asked my son, "Who told you this?" And my son replied, "My father." Thereupon Bhagavan said, "Oh! That fellow came and told you all, is it?" Some of the bhaktas who were listening to this asked what exactly was the incident referred to. Bhagavan passed it over, saying it was nothing. I gathered from the above vision of Bhagavan's mother that Bhagavan was God himself and that the vision was vouchsafed to mother to impress on her that she was no longer to think of him as her son, but as God Supreme.

One day, when Bhagavan and I were climbing the hill, I told him that because I have had the good fortune to have Bhagavan's darshan, all my Sanchita and Agami Karma has been burnt away like a bale of cotton by a spark of fire, and that only my Prarabdha Karma was left. He replied, "Even Prarabdha will remain only so long as the mind remains. If the mind is destroyed, to whom is Prarabdha? Think over that deeply." From that I understood that once the mind is killed and Jnana is attained, there is no such thing as Prarabdha.

Once a Bhakta having done some apachara, i.e. something improper or irreverent towards Bhagavan, he came and asked me what he might do for expiating his offence. I advised him to do Pradakshina round Bhagavan three times. He came round Bhagavan three times accordingly, prostrated before him, and said, "Bhagavan should not keep in mind the apachara I have committed. Bhagavan replied, "Where have I mind? It is only if there is a mind I can keep anything there." It is clear from this Bhagavan has attained Mano Nasa (extinction of the mind).

When Bhagavan was in Skandasramam, a gentleman from Malabar, greatly learned and expert in yoga sastra, came and lectured for four hours on yoga. After he had finished, Bhagavan said, "Now, you have finished, I hope, all that you had to say. The end of all your yoga is seeing lights and hearing sounds. The mind will be in laya, i.e., there will be suspension of mental activity, whilst the sound or light is there. When they disappear, the mind will again emerge. The real thing is to achieve Mano Nasa or extinction of the mind. That is what is called Jnana. The other man thereupon said, "What you say is the truth," and took leave of Bhagavan.

— The Call Divine, January 1, 1955

This is from THE MAHARSHI News Letter