Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi - Talk 16 - Grant Duff

19th January, 1935
Talk 16.

Mr. Douglas Ainslie (Mr. Grant Duff), an aristocratic English gentleman, 70 years old, nephew of a former Governor of Madras, an author and poet formerly attached to the British Legation in Athens, Paris and The Hague, had come to Madras as a guest of Government House. He came to see Maharshi with a letter of introduction from Paul Brunton. Next day he returned and remained a little less than an hour in the hall. On both days practically no words were exchanged, only gaze meeting gaze. His habits are abstemious; he remains without food of any kind till 1 p.m. and then lunches; he is said to have coffee and biscuits in the evening and retires without any further food. He has been a bachelor all along, walks a few miles a day on an empty stomach, speaks little and is very graceful in his movements. His voice is low and soft and his words appear to come from the heart. He has friends among whom might be counted the late Sir John Woodroffe, Sir Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Prof. Thomas, Sanskrit Professor in Oxford University. He expressed a desire to hear the Vedas. On Monday a letter arrived from Riga and the questions therein happened to coincide with the questions the European visitor had asked relating to the existence of departed souls and how best to serve them. The reply sent to Riga was read out to him. Tamil songs from Maharshi’s “Truth Revealed” and the Vedas were repeated in his presence. He considered the recitations magnificent. He came the next afternoon and to the wonder of others, had an experience on the previous night which he repeated to Maharshi. It was that he had seen something like an electric light within himself in the heart centre on the right side. And he added further that he had seen the sun shining within. Maharshi smiled a little and then had a translation of “Atmavidya” (Self-Knowledge) read out to him wherein there is the cryptic saying that realisation consists in reaching the Atman (Self) which is the expanse of consciousness (chidvyoman) as distinguished from the mind, which is the expansion of chittavyoman. This explanation appealed to him.

Speaking of him later, Maharshi remarked, “Just think of an old man of 70 not choosing to live peacefully in his own house on the income he had earned! How intense has been his earnestness that he has left his native land, dared a sea-voyage of 6,000 miles, and faced the hardships of long railway journeys in a foreign land, ignorant of the language, undergoing the vicissitudes of a lonely life, submitting to the inclemency of a hot climate, in surroundings uncongenial and unaccustomed to him. He could have been happy in his own house.

It is his longing for internal peace that has brought him here.” Quite so! The intensity of his earnestness is revealed by his illuminating experiences here within four days of his arrival, people say. With regard to the question concerning departed souls: so long as a man identifies himself with his gross body the thought materialised as gross manifestations must be real to him. Because his body is imagined to have originated from another physical being, the other exists as truly as his own body. Having existed here once it certainly survives death, because the offspring is still here and feels he has been born of the other. Under these circumstances the other world is true; and the departed souls are benefited by prayers offered for them. On the other hand, considered in a different way, the One Reality is the Self from whom has sprung the ego which contains within itself the seeds of predispositions acquired in previous births. The Self illumines the ego, the predispositions and also the gross senses, whereupon the predispositions appear to the senses to have materialised as the universe, and become perceptible to the ego, the reflection of the Self. The ego identifies itself with the body, and so loses sight of the Self and the result of this inadvertence is dark ignorance and the misery of the present life. The fact of the ego rising from the Self and forgetting it, is birth. So, it may be said that the birth of the individual has killed the mother. The present desire to regain one’s mother is in reality the desire to regain the Self, which is the same as realising one-self, or the death of the ego; this is surrender unto the mother, so she may live eternally.

Maharshi then read out from the Tamil version of Yoga Vasishta the story of Deerga Tapasi who had two sons, Punya and Papa. After the death of the parents the younger one mourned the loss and the elder brother consoled him as follows: “Why do you mourn the loss of our parents? I shall tell you where they are; they are only within ourselves and are ourselves. For the life-current has passed through innumerable incarnations, births and deaths, pleasures and pains, etc., just as the water current in a river flows over rocks, pits, sands, elevations and depressions on its way, but still the current is unaffected. Again the pleasures and pains, births and deaths, are like undulations on the surface of seeming water in the mirage of the ego. The only reality is the Self from where the ego appears, and runs through thoughts which manifest themselves as the universe and in which the mothers and fathers, friends and relatives appear and disappear. They are nothing but manifestations of the Self so that one’s parents are not outside the Self.

So there is no reason to mourn. Learn it, realise it and be happy.”

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi - Talk 24 - Piggott

4th February, 1935
Talk 24.

Mrs. Piggott: Why do you take milk, but not eggs?

M.: The domesticated cows yield more milk than necessary for their calves and they find it a pleasure to be relieved of the milk.

D.: But the hen cannot contain the eggs?

M.: But there are potential lives in them.

D.: Thoughts cease suddenly, then ‘I-I’ rises up as suddenly and continues. It is only in the feeling and not in the intellect. Can it be right?

M.: It is certainly right. Thoughts must cease and reason disappear for ‘I-I’ to rise up and be felt. Feeling is the prime factor and not reason.

D.: Moreover it is not in the head but in the right side of the chest.

M.: It ought to be so. Because the heart is there.

D.: When I see outside it disappears. What is to be done?

M.: It must be held tight.

D.: If one is active with such remembrance, will the actions be always right?

M.: They ought to be. However, such a person is not concerned with the right or wrong of his actions. Such a person’s actions are God’s and therefore they must be right.

D.: Why then the restrictions of food given for such?

M.: Your present experience is due to the influence of the atmosphere you are in. Can you have it outside this atmosphere? The experience is spasmodic. Until it becomes permanent practice is necessary. Restrictions of food are aids for such experience to be repeated. After one gets established in truth the restrictions drop away naturally. Moreover, food influences the mind and it must be kept pure. The lady told a disciple later: “I feel the vibrations from him more intensely and I am able to reach the ‘I’ centre more readily than before.”

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi - Talk 21 - Ellappa Chettiar

31st January, 1935
Talk 21.

Mr. Ellappa Chettiar, a member of the Legislative Council of Madras Presidency and an influential Hindu, asked: “Why is it said that the knowledge born of hearing is not firm, whereas that born of contemplation is firm?”

M.: On the other hand it is said that hearsay knowledge (paroksha) is not firm, whereas that born of one’s own realisation (aparoksha) is firm. It is also said that hearing helps the intellectual understanding of the Truth, that meditation makes the understanding clear, and finally that contemplation brings about realisation of the Truth. Furthermore, they say also that all such knowledge is not firm and that it is firm only when it is as clear and intimate as a gooseberry in the hollow of one’s palm.

There are those who affirm that hearing alone will suffice, because a competent person who had already, perhaps in previous incarnations, qualified himself, realises and abides in peace as soon as he hears the Truth told him only once, whereas the person not so qualified must pass through the stages prescribed above, before falling into samadhi.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi - Talk 17 - W. Y. Evans-Wentz

24th January, 1935
Talk 17.

Mr. W. Y. Evans-Wentz, an English research scholar of Oxford University, brought a letter of introduction from Mr. Brunton and arrived on a visit. He was tired after his journey and required rest. He is quite accustomed to Indian ways of living, having visited this country several times. He has learned the Tibetan language and helped in the translation of the “Book of the Dead” and the “Life of Milarepa”, the greatest of Tibetan Yogis, and a third book on the “Tibetan Secret Doctrines.” In the afternoon he began to ask a few questions. They related to Yoga. He wanted to know if it was right to kill animals such as tigers, deer, etc., and use the skin for Yoga posture (asana).

M.: The mind is the tiger or the deer.

D.: If everything be illusion, then one can take lives?

M.: To whom is illusion? Find that out! In fact everyone is a “killer of the Self” (atmahan) every moment of his life.

D.: Which posture (asana) is the best?

M.: Any asana, possibly sukha asana (easy posture or the half-Buddha position). But that is immaterial for jnana, the Path of Knowledge.

D.: Does posture indicate the temperament?

M.: Yes.

D.: What are the properties and effects of the tiger’s skin, wool, or deer-skin, etc.?

M.: Some have found them out and related them in Yoga books. They correspond to conductors and non-conductors of magnetism, etc. But it is all immaterial for the Path of Knowledge (Jnana Marga). Posture really means location and steadfastness in the Self. It is internal. The others refer to external positions.

D.: Which time is most suitable for meditation? M.: What is time? Tell me what it is!

M.: Time is only an idea. There is only the Reality Whatever you think it is, it looks like that. If you call it time, it is time. If you call it existence, it is existence, and so on. After calling it time, you divide it into days and nights, months, years, hours, minutes, etc. Time is immaterial for the Path of Knowledge. But some of these rules and discipline are good for beginners.

D.: What is Jnana Marga?

M.: Concentration of the mind is in a way common to both Knowledge and Yoga. Yoga aims at union of the individual with the universal, the Reality. This Reality cannot be new. It must exist even now, and it does exist. Therefore the Path of Knowledge tries to find out how viyoga (separation) came about. The separation is from the Reality only.

D.: What is illusion?

M.: To whom is the illusion? Find it out. Then illusion will vanish. Generally people want to know about illusion and do not examine to whom it is. It is foolish. Illusion is outside and unknown. But the seeker is considered to be known and is inside. Find out what is immediate, intimate, instead of trying to find out what is distant and unknown.

D.: Does Maharshi advise any physical posture for the Europeans?

M.: It may be advisable. However, it must be clearly understood that meditation is not prohibited in the absence of asanas, or prescribed times, or any accessories of the kind.

D.: Does Maharshi have any particular method to impart to the Europeans in particular?

M.: It is according to the mental equipment of the individual. There is indeed no hard and fast rule.

Mr. Evans-Wentz began to ask questions, mostly relating to Yoga preliminaries, for all of which Maharshi replied that they are aids to Yoga, which is itself an aid to Self-realisation, the goal of all.

D.: Is work an obstruction to Self-realisation?

M.: No. For a realised being the Self alone is the Reality, and actions are only phenomenal, not affecting the Self. Even when he acts he has no sense of being an agent. His actions are only involuntary and he remains a witness to them without any attachment. There is no aim for this action. Even one who is still practising the path of Wisdom (jnana) can practise while engaged in work. It may be difficult in the earlier stages for a beginner, but after some practice it will soon be effective and the work will not be found a hindrance to meditation.

D.: What is the practice?

M.: Constant search for ‘I’, the source of the ego. Find out ‘Who am I?’ The pure ‘I’ is the reality, the Absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. When That is forgotten, all miseries crop up; when that is held fast, the miseries do not affect the person.

D.: Is not brahmacharya (celibacy) necessary for realisation of the Self? M.: Brahmacharya is ‘living in Brahman’. It has no connection with celibacy as commonly understood. A real brahmachari, that is one who lives in Brahman, finds bliss in the Brahman which is the same as the Self. Why then should you look for other sources of happiness? In fact the emergence from the Self has been the cause of all the misery.

D.: Celibacy is a sine qua non for Yoga?

M.: So it is. Celibacy is certainly an aid to realisation among so many other aids.

D.: Is it then not indispensable? Can a married man realise the Self?

M.: Certainly, it is a matter of fitness of mind. Married or unmarried, a man can realise the Self, because that is here and now. If it were not so, but attainable by some efforts at some other time, and if it were new and something to be acquired, it would not be worthy of pursuit. Because what is not natural cannot be permanent either. But what I say is that the Self is here and now and alone.

D.: God being immanent in all, one should not take life of any kind. Is society right in taking the life of a murderer? Can the State do so either? The Christian countries begin to think that it is wrong to do so.

M.: What is it that prompted the murderer to commit the crime? The same power awards him the punishment. Society or the State is only a tool in the hands of the power. You speak of one life taken away; But what about innumerable lives lost in wars?

D.: Quite so. Loss of lives is wrong anyway. Are wars justified?

M.: For a realised man, the one who remains ever in the Self, the loss of one or several or all lives either in this world or in all the three worlds makes no difference. Even if he happens to destroy them all, no sin can touch such a pure soul. Maharshi quoted the Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 17 - “He who is free from the notion of ego, whose intellect is unattached, though he annihilates all the worlds, he slayeth not, nor is he bound by the results of his actions.”

D.: Do not one’s actions affect the person in after-births?

M.: Are you born now? Why do you think of other births? The fact is that there is neither birth nor death. Let him who is born think of death and palliatives therefore.

D.: How long did it take Maharshi to realise the Self?

M.: This question is asked because the name and form are perceived. These are the perceptions consequent on the identification of the ego with the gross body. If the ego identifies itself with the subtle mind, as in dream, the perceptions are subtle also. But in sleep there are no perceptions. Was there not the ego still? Unless it was, there cannot be the memory of having slept. Who was it that slept? You did not say in your sleep that you slept. You say it now in your wakeful state. The ego therefore is the same in wakefulness, dream and sleep. Find out the underlying Reality behind these states. That is the Reality underlying these. In that state there is Being alone. There is no you, nor I, nor he; no present, nor past, nor future. It is beyond time and space, beyond expression. It is ever there. Just as a plantain tree produces shoots at its roots, before yielding fruits and perishing, and these shoots, being transplanted, do the same again, so also the original primeval Master of antiquity (Dakshinamurti), who cleared the doubts of his rishi disciples in silence, has left shoots which are ever multiplying. The Guru is a shoot of that Dakshinamurti. The question does not arise when the Self is realised.

D.: Does Maharshi enter the nirvikalpa samadhi?

M.: If the eyes are closed, it is nirvikalpa; if open, it is (though differentiated, still in absolute repose) savikalpa. The ever-present state is the natural state sahaja.

Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi - Talk 53 - Knowles

15th June, 1935
Talk 53

A young man, Mr. Knowles, came for darsan. He had read Paul Brunton’s two books. He asked: “The Buddhists say that ‘I’ is unreal, whereas Paul Brunton in the Secret Path tells us to get over the ‘Ithought’ and reach the state of ‘I’. Which is true?”

M.: There are supposed to be two ‘I’s; the one is lower and unreal, of which all are aware; and the other, the higher and the real, which is to be realised. You are not aware of yourself while asleep, you are aware in wakefulness; waking, you say that you were asleep; you did not know it in the deep sleep state. So then, the idea of diversity has arisen along with the body-consciousness; this body-consciousness arose at some particular moment; it has origin and end. What originates must be something. What is that something? It is the ‘I’-consciousness. Who am I? Whence am I? On finding the source, you realise the state of Absolute Consciousness.

D.: Who is this ‘I’? It seems to be only a continuum of senseimpression. The Buddhist idea seems to be so too.

M.: The world is not external. The impressions cannot have an outer origin. Because the world can be cognised only by consciousness. The world does not say that it exists. It is your impression. Even so this impression is not consistent and not unbroken. In deep sleep the world is not cognised; and so it exists not for a sleeping man. Therefore the world is the sequence of the ego. Find out the ego. The finding of its source is the final goal.

D.: I believe that we should not inflict suffering on other lives. Should we then endure the mosquito bite and submit to it also?

M.: You do not like to suffer yourself. How can you inflict suffering on others? Just keep off mosquitoes since you suffer by their stings.

D.: Is it right that we kill other lives, e.g., mosquitoes, bugs?

M.: Everyone is a suicide. The eternal, blissful, and natural state has been smothered by this life of ignorance. In this way the present life is due to the killing of the eternal, pristine Being. Is it not a case of suicide? Sothen, everyone is a suicide. Why worry about murders and killing? In the course of a later talk the visitor said: “The world sends impressions and I awake!”

M.: Can the world exist without someone to perceive it? Which is prior? The Being-consciousness or the rising-consciousness? The Being-consciousness is always there, eternal and pure. The risingconsciousness rises forth and disappears. It is transient.

D.: Does not the world exist for others even when I am asleep?

M.: Such a world mocks at you also for knowing it without knowing yourself. The world is the result of your mind. Know your mind. Then see the world. You will realise that it is not different from the Self.

D.: Is not Maharshi aware of himself and his surroundings, as clearly as I am?

M.: To whom is the doubt? The doubts are not for the realised. They are only for the ignorant.

Sam Wickramasinghe

How the Guru called me

by Sam Wickramasinghe

Among admirers and devotees of Ramana Maharshi, Sam Wickramasinghe is exceptional, not only because he is Sinhalese by birth, but because he spent years among other devotees (in Kathirkamam) and in solitude (at Guru Madam, Kayts) endeavoring to penetrate into deeper and deeper levels of Yogaswami's multi-leveled deeds and utterances. Still lively and outspoken at 80, Sam is widely sought out by younger seekers for his colorful accounts of past experiences and exploits. He is also an accomplished writer, many of whose articles, such as this one, have appeared over the years in the Sri Lankan English press.

In this article, Sam reminisces about his youthful encounters with Ramana Maharshi.

When the now defunct Tata Airlines plane took me from Colombo to Mad­ras in December, 1946, pleasure-bent, little did I realise then that it was to be the beginning of a more wonder-filled journey, finally bringing me to where I am now—in an ashram!

Sight-seeing from Madras, with camera slung over shoulder in full tourist style, I found myself one day in Brindavan Gardens, Mysore, in the company of some fellow citizens, one of whom was a balding Professor honeymooning with his bride. An evening saw all of us seated near Harding Circle, and there the Professor began talking about a friend of his, one . Paul Brunton, with whom he had rowed in the English Channel and who was supposed to be staying in Mysore at the time as the guest of the Maharajah. Snatches of the con­versation (which did not interest me at all) came to my eats, and I heard something about some books written by this Brunton and also some mention of a Maharshi—although I did not even know the meaning of the word The Professor asked me whether I had read any of Paul Brunton's books, and when I said, 'no', he suddenly decided that all of us should make a visit to the Maharaja's palace the next day to look up his friend. Unfortunately the friend was out holidaying in another resort of the Rajah somewhere near the Himalayas -- and that ended Brunton, his books and the Rishi for me -- so I thought.

About a year later, an office pal one day shoved a book in front of me and almost demanded that I should read it. The book was In Search of Secret India and the author was Paul Brunton! For a few moments I tried to recall the name, but eventually, when the scene at Mysore surfaced, I recounted the incident to my friend. That evening as the book, which gripped me from the start, vague doors seemed to open somewhere in­side and very soon the author's other works, including Wisdont of the Overself, came to my hands in a mysterious fashion. Reading Hidden Teachings Beyond Yoga was a profound experience, as I had the strange feeling that here I was treading on familiar ground, something that I had known and understood in some forgotten past. It was the beginning of the Infinite Road.

Very soon I found myself thrown out of employment, for being cheeky, with an extra month's pay in the pocket. At 21 years this was an exhilarating feeling of freedom with so much money to spend. Already numerous dreams were taking shape in the mind. But Grace had other plans and the book-thrusting office-mate appeared again saying calmly with a knowing smile on his face, saying "Now that you have the time and money, you should go and see the Maharshi."

A few weeks later, I was in India again —this lime at the feet of Sri Ramana in the company of a different group of 'tourists'! Major Chadwick was there, the Californian Rappold and another American lady, Arthur Osborne and a few others. The Ashram authorities very kindly extended the usual three days hospitality to a week, and then let me wait a further fortnight, arranging for me to stay with another Sri Lankan, Thambithurai, in the very hut of Paul Brunton near the pond!

The two weeks passed too soon, with not too many visitors then, but every moment vibrant with Bhagavan's illumined presence. When departure time came and I took a tonga to the station one early dawn, a feeling of sadness overwhelmed mc. It was full moon as I stood at Villupuram for the connecting train, and it seemed as if Bhagavan's voice was reproachfully inquiring inside, "Son, whither art thou going?"

Many summers have passed since then —many summers full of professional activity and many travels out of homeland, including a second visit to the Ashram in December, 1970. Looking hack now it is easy to see the links connecting one event to another and realise that, with all the externalised activity, another journey began that day in the Pre­sence of Bhagavan over 30 years ago—an Inner Voyage of discovery where the Grace of the Supreme gave silent direction in the form of Sri Ramana as 'tourist guide'! After his samadhi, other lights shone and showed the way, like Sri Yogaswami of Jaffna and Poondi Swami, near Kalasapakkam, embodying in various names and forms the One majestic Grace.

— first published in The Mountain Path (Ramana Asramam Journal), October 1979, pp. 238-9

The more we control thought, activity and food, the more shall we be able to control sleep. But moderation ought to be the rule, as explained in the Gita, for the sadhaka (practiser). As explained in the book, sleep is the first obstacle for all sadhakas. The second obstacle is said to vikshepa or the sense objects of the world which divert one's attention. The third is said to be kashaya or thought in the mind about previous experiences with sense objects. The fourth ananda (bliss) is also called an obstacle, because in that state a feeling of separation from the source of ananda enabling the enjoyer to say, 'I am enjoying ananda' is present. Even this has to be surmounted and the final step of samadhana or samadhi has to be reached where one becomes ananda or one with the reality and the duality of enjoyer and enjoyment ceases in the ocean of Satchidananda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss) or the Self."

— from Gems from Bhagavan, p. 38.

This article from

Kunju Swami

IT WAS IN 1919 that I first came to Sri Bhagavan. He was then living at Skandasramam on the slope of the Hill Arunachala. His mother and brother lived with him. Palaniswami used to attend to his few personal wants.

Plague had driven away most of the inhabitants of the town and consequently visitors to Sri Bhagavan were few. I was, therefore, left alone with Sri Bhagavan most of the time.

I related to him all the spiritual practices I had been doing, what I had been studying, and what experiences I had. At that time I was very unhappy because in spite of all I had done I was unable to experience samadhi.

After patiently hearing me out, Bhagavan quoted from Kaivalya Navaneeta: "If you realize who you are, there is no cause for sorrow." "So if you come to understand who you are, then there is peace," said Bhagavan.

Well, I did not know what was meant by "know who you are." Bhagavan went on to explain that the mind is only a bundle of thoughts and that if I seek the source of all thoughts I would be drawn into the Heart. He simultaneously pointed to his Heart.

Bhagavan was looking at me intently and I focused my attention in the manner he instructed me and within a few minutes I was led into samadhi. I was thrilled. Coming to my senses we went for lunch. Then again, I sat before him and by a single look he put me into that blissful state. This experience occurred again and again-during all seventeen days that I stayed with Bhagavan. I was like one intoxicated. I was absolutely indifferent to everything. I had no curiosity to see anything, no desire whatsoever. What I did I did most mechanically. I would have continued to live in this state if it had not occurred to me that it was not proper to partake of the food that was offered to Sri Bhagavan by his devotees without paying anything. I thought that he had initiated me into the experience of Brahman and that I had nothing more to gain by staying in his presence. I, therefore, returned to my native place and began to practise meditation in a room in my house all by myself. I could succeed to gain and retain that experience only for a few days; it started to diminish gradually and at last one day it was lost. I could not regain the experience. I decided to return to Sri Bhagavan. This I did, and great good fortune awaited me when I came.

Palaniswami, who was rendering personal service to Sri Bhagavan, had to go on a journey for some time. Before going he asked me to render such service. This I considered to be my greatest good fortune. I felt extremely happy for the grace which Bhagavan had shown me. I did not thereafter bother myself about the spiritual experience.

I, however, asked Bhagavan why I could not get the experience when I meditated in my house. Bhagavan said: "You have read Kaivalya Navaneeta, have you not? Don't you remember what it says?" And he took up the book and read the relevant verses.

Sri Bhagavan then explained to me at great length the purport of these verses. They relate to the doubt raised by the disciple about the need to continue spiritual practices even after one has had the supreme experience. The disciple wonders whether the spiritual experience once gained could be lost. The Guru says that it would be until he took care to practise sravana, manana and nididhyasana, that is hearing from the Guru the Truth, reflecting over it and assimilating it. The experience would occur in the presence of the Guru, but it would not last. Doubts would arise again and again and in order to clear them the disciple should continue to study, think and practice. These would be done until the distinction of the knower, the object of knowledge and the act of knowing no longer arise. In the view of Sri Bhagavan's explanation I decided to stay always byBhagavan's side and practise sravana, manana and nididhyasana.

In olden days when we had the benefit of receiving personal instructions from Sri Bhagavan, one of them was to get into meditation before going to sleep. Thus sleep overtook one as a natural sequel to fatigue and was not induced or preceded by lying down. Also the first thing in the morning, immediately on getting up from bed was to go into meditation. This ensured a serenity of mind and also a feeling of tirelessness throughout the day. The state of mind immediately before sleep is resumed on waking. After spending about twelve years in personal attendance on Bhagavan, I began to feel an urge to devote myself entirely to sadhana. However, I could not easily reconcile myself to giving up my personal service to Bhagavan. I had been debating the matter for some days when the answer came in a strange way.

As I entered the hall one day I heard Bhagavan explaining to others who were there that real service to him did not mean attending to his physical needs but following the essence of his teaching: that is concentrating on realizing the Self. Needless to say, that automatically cleared my doubts.

I therefore gave up my Ashrama duties, but I then found it hard to decide how, in fact, I should spend the entire day in search of Realization. I referred the matter to Bhagavan and he advised me to make Self-enquiry my final aim but to practise Self-enquiry, meditation, japa and recitation of scripture turn by turn, changing over from one to another as and when I found the one I was doing irksome or difficult. In course of time, he said, the sadhana would become stabilized in Self-enquiry or pure Consciousness or Realization.

Before recommending any path to an aspirant Bhagavan would first find out from him what aspect or form or path he was naturally drawn to and then recommend the person to follow it. He would sometimes endorse the traditional stages of sadhana, advancing from worship (puja) to incantation (japa), then to meditation(dhyana), and finally to Self-enquiry (vichara ). However, he also use to say that continuous and rigorous practice of any one of these methods was adequate in itself to lead to Realization.

Once some awkward problems concerning the Ashrama management came up. Without being directly concerned, I was worried about them, as I felt that failure to solve them satisfactorily would impair the good name of the Ashrama.

One day two or three devotees went to Bhagavan and put the problems before him. I happened to enter the hall while they were talking about them, and he immediately turned to me and asked me why I was interesting myself in such matters. I did not grasp the meaning of his question, so Bhagavan explained that a person should occupy himself only with that purpose with which he had originally come to the Ashrama and asked me what my original purpose had been. I replied: "To receive Bhagavan's grace." So he said: "Then occupy yourself with that only."

He further continued by asking me whether I had any interest in matters concerning the Ashrama management when I first came here. On my replying that I had not, he added: "Then concentrate on the original purpose of your coming here." There are numerous photos of Bhagavan. Have you ever seen one with his eyes closed? Bhagavan was pouring out his grace through his eyes. There would be any number of devotees sitting before him and each one would feel that Bhagavan was looking only at him or her.

There are numerous photos of Bhagavan. Have you ever seen one with his eyes closed? Bhagavan was pouring out his grace through his eyes. There would be any number of devotees sitting before him and each one would feel that Bhagavan was looking only at him or her.

Bhagavan's dristhi (sight) was concentrated on space only. It was turned inward and everyone felt inwardly, in their hearts, that his sight was focused on them alone. Bhagavan cares about everyone, and his look pierces through each one's heart, dispels our darkness, gives us peace, even some liberation.


A Long Life with the Maharshi

By Sri K. Natesan

On February 23, 2009, devotees in India and around the world celebrated Sivarathri, the Night of Siva. On that same day, in Sri Ramanasramam, the 11th volume of the Collected Works of Ganapati Muni, edited by Sri K. Natesan was released. To compile and publish all his written works became the final mission that Sri K. Natesan took up six years earlier, while in his 89th year, and now, at last, on the Night of Siva the final volume was released and his mission was accomplished.

When just a youngster, studying in the Arunachala Temple Veda Patasala school, Natesan came under the influence of Bhagavan Ramana, and not too long after that, Ganapati Muni. The Muni encouraged him to write and study his compositions, which he did throughout his long life, collecting and copying everything Ganapati Muni composed. The Maharshi took genuine interest is this. Then, in the evening of his life, Sri Natesan clearly felt the inspiration and guidance of both the Maharshi and the Muni to take up this enormous task.

After the release of the the 11th volume (the 12th volume, an index, is yet to be printed), Natesan’s friends expected he would soon be released from his physical vestige, an event which he eagerly awaited.

And it happened just one month later, on March 21 in Tiruvannamalai. For the past year Sri K. Natesan stayed at his brother’s home in the town, at the foot of the Holy Hill. Knowing his end was near, he wished to leave his body residing there. On his final day, when his family saw his life force ebbing, they called an ambulance to take him to the Sri Ramana Maharshi Rangammal Hospital. In route to the hospital, just as the vehicle was passing in front of Sri Ramanasramam, Sri K. Natesan breathed his last, his soul released from the body, merged in the feet of his Master, Sri Ramana. In 1993, he gave us the following article about his life. Reading it again after all these years we realize what a fortunate soul he was, and also how fortunate we all were to have moved closely with him for more than 35 years.

I WAS BORN into a very orthodox Brahmin family on November 26, 1913, in the village of Mondakurathur, near Polur, North Arcot District. That was also the birthplace of the Maharshi’s renowned devotee, Echammal, who was related to me on my mother’s side of the family. My father, Brahmasri Krishna Ganapati, was a great Vedic scholar who taught Krishna Yajur Veda for thirty years in the local Vedapatasala.

I had my first darshan of Bhagavan Maharshi at Skandashram in 1921 when I was eight years old. Sri Vasudeva Sastry, one of the earliest devotees of Bhagavan, took me to see him. Vasudeva Sastry was at that time teaching me Sanskrit in the Patasala of the Arunachaleshwara Temple.

Later in 1923, when Bhagavan came down to the present ashram, I used to visit the ashram often and sit in front of the Maharshi. At that time I was studying in the Municipal High School where Sri T. K. Sundaresa Iyer was a teacher. After completing high school in 1930, I waited two years before joining an engineering college in Madras. During those two intervening years I was at the ashram almost daily, along with T. K. S. I used to spend time there even at odd hours of the day or night. In 1936, after earning a diploma in civil engineering in Madras, I worked for six months under Sri K. K. Nambiar. K. K. Nambiar, already a staunch devotee of Bhagavan, had at that time the good fortune of being posted as the District Board Engineer right in Tiruvannamalai itself. By Bhagavan’s grace, I was almost constantly at the ashram between 1935 and 1945, though I was employed off and on in various places. I often quit jobs to come to Sri Ramanasramam and be near Sri Maharshi. My attachment to Bhagavan was such that I could not remain employed continuously until, by Bhagavan’s grace, Sri K. K. Nambiar, who was then the Chief Engineer of the Madras Corporation in 1945, got me employed by that Corporation. That ended the rolling-stone phase of my life, as I retained this job until my retirement in January of 1969. Throughout all these years I would never miss an opportunity to come to Bhagavan’s ashram. After Ganapati Muni became the recipient of the Maharshi’s grace, all his doubts were dispelled at one stroke by the vision of the Reality. The Muni surrendered to the Maharshi on Monday, November 18, 1907. This event has been described in detail by various writers. What is not very well known is that on the afternoon of that November day in 1907 at the Virupaksha Cave, Nayana wrote five verses in Sanskrit lauding the Maharshi, proclaiming him as Bhagavan Sri Ramana. He gave the paper containing the verses to the Malayalee attendant Palaniswami. It is our bad luck that these verses were lost due to the negligence of the attendant.

In the beginning, the Maharshi used to address Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni as Ganapati Sastrigam, which the Muni did not like because it was a respectful form used to address elders. The Maharshi was his chosen guru and he felt uncomfortable being addressed by his guru in this manner. Understanding the Muni’s objection, the Maharshi compromised and thereafter called him ‘Nayana’, the same name by which his disciples endearingly addressed him. In Telugu, the word ‘Nayana’ means both child and father.

In 1908, from January to March, Nayana lived with the Maharshi at the Pachaiamman Temple. One early morning Nayana and other disciples were all sitting in front of the Maharshi who was, as usual, indrawn. The Muni saw a sparkling light come down from the sky and touch the forehead of the Maharshi six times. The Maharshi also was aware of what was happening. Immediately the Muni had the intuitive realization that the Maharshi was none other than an incarnation of Lord Skanda. The seer-poet, Nayana, gave expression to this revelation through his famous eight verses, “Ramana Asthakam,” beginning with “Yanayatra. . . .” This was later included in the “Forty Verses in Praise of Ramana” that was compiled by Bhagavan himself after Nayana’s passing in 1936.

When Nayana had known Bhagavan for some years he questioned him one evening as to whether he was correct in recognising him as Skanda and extolling him in the Ramana Gita as Lord Subramanya. Though the Maharshi heard the question he remained silent. Nayana then mentally prayed to Bhagavan to answer his question at least by the next day. Consequently, when Nayana went to him the following day, the Maharshi looked at him and said, “Ishwara Swami (a devotee of the Maharshi) wrote a verse in praise of this Vinayaka (Ganesha) image sitting in a niche in the Virupaksha Cave. At his request I also wrote a venba verse on that Pillayar (Ganesha).” Then Bhagavan explained the meaning of that venba to Nayana. In the verse, Bhagavan entreats Lord Ganesha to look after him, because he is a younger brother who has come after him. Nayana was much gratified to hear this as he felt it was a confirmation that the Maharshi was an avatar of Skanda.

On April 16, 1922, when the Maharshi was still living in Skandashram, Nayana composed the following verse in praise of Bhagavan: May the ascetic, wearing only a white loin-cloth, who once used to ride on the celestial peacock and has now come down as a man on earth, reign over the world as its unique Master! This shows that Nayana had foreseen as early as 1922 that the Maharshi would shine forth as the world teacher of the age. Many of Nayana’s declarations were prophetic.

In 1923, on January 3, when the first Jayanti of Bhagavan was celebrated in Ramanasramam, Nayana composed this verse:

There is the light of Uma in your eyes for dispelling your devotees’ dark ignorance. Your face gleams lotuslike with the grace and brilliance of Lakshmi. Your words contain the secret lore of Saraswati. Preceptor of the worlds! Ramana the great!

How can a mortal sing your glory? Again, in this verse, Nayana hailed Bhagavan as vishvacharya, world teacher. Once Bhagavan was engaging himself in collecting the Sanskrit verses written by devotees in praise of him. I happened to be present there at the time and mentioned to Bhagavan that Ganapati Muni had composed the following verse: vande sri ramanarser-acaryasya padabjam, yo me’darsayadisam bhantam dhvantam atitya. Then Bhagavan asked me where I got the verse and where and when it was written by Nayana. In 1936, after Nayana’s death, Bhagavan collected all the verses Nayana wrote on him and entitled it “Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana.” This was published by the ashram in the same year. Bhagavan had no knowledge of the above verse at that time. I explained to him that Kapali Sastry and S. Doraiswamy Iyer requested Nayana to translate into Sanskrit verse Sri Aurobindo’s English poem titled Mother. After hearing the gist of the poem, Nayana started the translation on May 18, 1928, under the heading Matrvyuhacatuskam. However, it was never completed. In this translation Nayana wrote the above verse as an invocation to Bhagavan. Bhagavan requested to see the manuscript with the verse. The next day the notebook containing the verse in Nayana’s own handwriting was shown to him. He copied it and said that it should be added as the invocation to the next edition of “Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana.” In all the subsequent editions the verse can be seen.

Between 1935 and 1945, though employed off and on in various places, I often quit jobs and left for holy places without informing anyone. Eventually I would end up back at Ramanasramam. Once on my return Bhagavan asked me which places I had visited. I replied that I had been to Tiruttani, Tirupati, and Padaiveedu (Renukamba Kshetram). Then the Maharshi pointedly asked me what was in my mind at that time. Straight away I gave a spontaneous answer in the form of the following verse from Ramana Gita:

not on Swamimalai,
nor on Tiruttani Hill,
nor on top of Venkatachal (Tirupati) do you now dwell.
In reality you are in Arunachala!

The Maharshi smiled.

On the occasion of my wedding on July 5, 1942, T. N. Venkataraman, now the [late] President of Sri Ramanasramam, came straight to Vellore from Karaikudi to attend the ceremony. The train passed through and stopped at the Tiruvannamalai station, but T. N. V., along with his eight-year-old son, stayed on the train and came straight to my marriage. When T. N. V.’s father, Chinnaswami, heard about it he began to scold his son and criticised him for going to Vellore to attend the wedding. Bhagavan overheard this from the Old Hall and said, “Why is he shouting? Ambi (T. N. V.) has gone to attend his friend’s marriage. There is nothing wrong in this.” After I got married I came to the ashram with my new wife and did pranams to Bhagavan in the Old Hall.

My wife, Jnanambal, was already deeply devoted to Bhagavan and had had his darshan even as a girl of eight. That day, after leaving the Old Hall, my wife and I went and visited Major Chadwick in his cottage. I had known Chadwick since his arrival in the ashram in 1935. He congratulated us on our marriage and remarked about the appropriateness of the bride’s name, saying, “Jnana you wanted and Jnana you have gained.”

Major Chadwick was one of the very few souls who moved closely with Bhagavan. One day he called me and requested me to show Sri Bhagavan a piece of paper in which he had given a definition for Self-realization. Sri Bhagavan read it and appreciated it very much. Chadwick wrote: Self-realization: It is the death while yet alive of that which lives after death.

In the earlier days some people used to sleep in the Old Hall. Once I slept there near the southern door at the west side of the hall. I did not get up even after 5 a.m. Bhagavan came near me and touched me with his right toe saying, “Get up. Day has already broken.” I immediately got up and had the darshan of Bhagavan. This is called Visva-rupadarshanam, the first darshan of the chosen deity in the morning. There was Veda Parayana every evening at the hall in the presence of Bhagavan. He would be mostly indrawn at that time. Following the Veda Parayana, from 7 to 7:30 p.m., recitations of the Maharshi’s works in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, and Malayalam would take place.

Devotees like Ramaswami Pillai, Kunjuswami, T. K. Sudaresa Iyer and some others used to take part in it. In the earlier days I was also participating. During Tamil Parayanam I noticed Bhagavan appeared quite unconcerned with things around him, though he remained fully attentive to the recitation. He wouldn’t hesitate to correct our pronunciation of the verses, as he was particular to obey all the rules of prosody. Once I recited incorrectly the last verse in “Arunachala Pancharatnam” and Bhagavan pointed it out to me, demonstrating how it should be pronounced. He was satisfied only when I repeated it to him correctly.

Once when I was in Madras, T. P. Ramachandra Iyer’s father was writing a letter to the ashram. In it he was including a certain Sanskrit verse. Because he was not familiar with the Sanskrit alphabet he asked me to write it for him. I did so, and when the letter reached the ashram and Bhagavan saw the verse he looked up and told the devotees in the hall, “Oh, now K. Natesan has gone to Madras.”

Bhagavan was so keen and alert that he could recognise even my Sanskrit handwriting. I felt blessed to be remembered by him, even though I was away from the ashram. Another time I was sitting before Bhagavan and Vaidyanathan Stapati was showing Bhagavan the sculpture he was making of him. The Stapati asked Bhagavan for his opinion as to whether it was a good likeness of him.

Bhagavan said, “I can’t say. Only Natesan knows.” Vaidyanathan Stapati looked at me and Bhagavan said, “Not that Natesan, the barber Natesan.” He considered the barber to be the best authority on artistic representations of his body.

After retirement from service I have come back to the ashram to serve the devotees. The ashram President, Sri T. N. Venkataraman, being a close friend of mine since 1934, found me very useful to the new devotees since I could function as both a receptionist and an instructor. The president had entrusted me with the accounts of the Mountain Path magazine, etc. I served in the office until 1987. I ceased to work in the office due to glaucoma and cataract. Again, by the grace of Sri Bhagavan, I was completely cured of my eye trouble and normal sight has been restored. Since I am getting aged, the ashram president was kind enough to accommodate me as an old resident devotee in the ashram.

I realize that I do not have the power to relate in writing what the Maharshi is, or what he has done by living in our midst, or what he will be to future generations. Let all those who aspire for liberation and eternal happiness turn to him for guidance and grace, and then, I am sure, his unique mission to mankind will be known in the hearts of the seekers. To try to introduce Sri Ramana Maharshi to the world at large is just like trying to introduce the sun to the solar system. Sri Maharshi is Self-effulgent like the sun. The Masters who appeared on earth before the advent of Sri Maharshi have shown several paths to get a vision of God or gods. But the Maharshi, by his unique, direct method of Self-enquiry ‘Who am I?’, has shown that realization of the Self alone is God-realization. And it is he that shines forth as the Self. Today the whole world has come to realize the greatness of the Maharshi on account of his direct path to realize the Self.

At one time the world was attracted like a magnet by the Atmic force of Gautama Buddha, and at another time the world was drawn by the pure, selfless life of Jesus Christ. At present the life and teachings of the Maharshi have spread widely to all the corners of the world as the Supreme Light of Advaita Brahman. It is my belief that the Maharshi has now become the Universal Master.

This topic was taken from The Maharshi New Letter of May/June 2009

Upadesa Saram

(The Essence of Instruction)

(Translated by B.V.NARASIMASWAMI)

There is a legend that a group of rishis once lived in the Daruka forest together, practising rites by which they acquired supernatural powers. By the same means they hoped to attain final liberation. In this, however, they were mistaken, for action can only result in action, not in the cessation of action; rites can produce powers but not the peace of liberation which is beyond rites and powers and all forms of action. Siva determined to convince them of their error and therefore appeared before them as a wandering sadhu. Together with him came Vishnu in the form of a beautiful lady. All the rishis were smitten with love for this lady and thereby their equilibrium was disturbed and their rites and powers were adversely affected. Moreover their wives, who were also living with them in the forest, all fell in love with the strange sadhu. Incensed at this, they conjured up an elephant and a tiger by magic rites and sent them against him. Siva, however, slew them easily and took the elephant's skin for a robe and the tiger's for a wrap. The rishis then realized that they were up against one more powerful than themselves and they bowed down to him and asked him for instruction. He then explained to them that it is not by action but by renunciation of action that one attains liberation.

The poet Muruganar wanted to write a hundred verses on this theme but he could not readily proceed beyond seventy verses. It then occurred to him that Bhagavan was the proper person to write the verses relating to Siva's instructions. He therefore begged Bhagavan to compose them and Bhagavan accordingly composed thirty Tamil verses. He himself later rendered them into Sanskrit. These thirty verses were subsequently translated by Bhagavan into Telugu under the name of Anubhuti Saram first, and Upadesa Saram afterwards. Bhagavan likewise rendered them into Malayalam. The Sanskrit version, Upadesa Saram, was chanted before him daily together with the Vedas and continues to be chanted before his shrine; that is to say, it is treated as a scripture. He refers to the various paths to liberation, grading them in order of efficiency and excellence, and showing that the best is Self-enquiry.


kartur ajnaya prapyate phalam
karma kim param karma taj-jadam
Karma must ever yield its proper fruit,
For thus it is ordained by God, Himself,
Supreme Creator. Then is Karma God?
No, for it is itself insentient.

krti-mahodadhau patana-karanam
phalam asasvatam gati-nirodhakam
Of Karma the results must pass away,
Yet it leaves seeds which in their turn will sprout
And throw the actor back into the flood
Of Karma’s ocean. Karma cannot save.

isvararpitam necchaya krtam
citta-sodhakam mukti-sadhakam
But acts performed without attachment’s urge
And solely for the service of the Lord
Will cleanse the mind and indicate the way
Which leads at length unto the final goal.

kaya-vak-manah karyam uttamam
pujanam japas cintanam kramat
Worship, reciting of God’s Holy Name,
And meditation, mainly are performed
By body, voice and mind, and they excel
Each other in the order here set down.

jagata isadhi-yukta-sevanam
If we but recognise this Universe
Of eightfold form as form of God, Himself,
And serve in adoration all the world.
This is of God most excellent worship.

uttama-stavad ucca-mandatah
cittajam japa-dhyanam uttamam
Constant repeating of the Holy Name
Is more than praise, at length the voice will sink
To silent repetition in the Heart,
And in this way is meditation learnt.

ajya-dharaya srotasa samam
sarala-cintanam viralatah param
Better than meditation that recurs
In broken fits and starts is that which is
A steady ceaseless flow, like to the course
Of falling oil or a perennial stream.

bheda-bhavanat so’ham ity asau
bhavana' bhida pavani mata
Worship of God as in no way distinct
From him who worships, or in other words
Thinking that “He is I”, is better far
Than any other kind of worshipping.

bhavana-balad bhaktir uttama
To rest in the Real Being, that transcends
Our every thought, by reason of the strength
Of our devotion to some thing conceived;
This of supreme devotion is the truth.

hrt-sthale manah-svasthata kriya
bhakti-yoga-bodhasca niscitam
To be absorbed again into one’s Source (Heart)
Is Karma, Bhakti, Yoga, Jnanam, all
These things in truth. Or put in other words
Good works, Devotion, Union, Gnosis, too.

vayu-rodhanal liyate manah
jala-paksivat rodha-sadhanam
As by the fowler birds are caught in nets
So by the holding of the breath within
The mind can be restrained. This a device
That will effect absorption of the mind.

citta-vayavas cit-kriyayutah
sakhayor dvayi sakti-mulaka
For mind and life expressed in thought and act,
That is with thought and action as their function,
Diverge and branch like two boughs of a tree,
But both of them spring from one single stem.

laya-vinasane ubhaya-rodhane
laya-gatam punar bhavati no mrtam
Suppression of the mind in two ways comes,
Absorption and extinction; mind absorbed
Will live again, but mind which is destroyed
Will never more revive, for it is dead.

prana-bandhanal lina-manasam
eka-cintanan nasam etyadah
When, by the means of restraint of the breath,
The mind has been controlled, then make it flow
Along a single current, that achieved
Its form will then entirely disappear.

krtyam asti kim svasthitim yatah
For the Great Sage for whom all form of mind
Has disappeared and who is ever one
With the Reality, there is no Karma more,
For He, indeed, the True Self has become.

drsya-varitam cittam atmanah
cittva-darsanam tattva-darsanam
When mind has given the sense-objects up
Which are external and has drawn within,
And has perceived its own refulgent form,
Then verily alone True Gnosis is.

manasam tu kim margane krte
naiva manasam marga arjavat
When pondering with constant vigilance
Upon the actual nature of the mind
One finds that there is no such thing as mind;
This, of a truth, is the straight course for all.

vrttayas tvaham vrttim asritah
vrttayo mano viddhy aham manah
The mind is nothing but a lot of thoughts,
Of all these many thoughts ‘tis the thought ‘I’
That is the root. So we can see by that
The mind in truth is only the thought ‘I’.

aham ayam kuto bhavati cinvatah
ayi pataty-aham nija-vicaranam
Whence, therefore, does this ‘I-thought’ have its birth?
With vigilant and ever active mind
Seek this, and crestfallen the ‘I’ becomes.
The search, itself, the quest of Wisdom is.

ahami nasabhajy-aham-ahamtaya
sphurati hrt svayam parama-purna-sat
This search pursued till ‘I’ has disappeared
There now vibrates the ‘I-I’ all alone,
The quest is finished, there’s no more to seek.
For this is really the Infinite Self.

idam aham pada’bhikhyam anvaham
ahami linake' py alaya-sattaya
This is eternally the true import
Of the term ‘I’. For in the deepest sleep
We do not cease to be. We still exist
Even though here there is no sense of ‘I’.
naham eka-sat tajjadam hyasat
As I am pure Existence, I am not
The body nor the senses, mind nor life,
Nor even ignorance, for all these things
Are quite insentient and so unreal.

sattva-bhasika cit kvavetara
sattaya hi cic-cittaya hy aham
As there is not a second consciousness
To know Existence, it must follow that
Existence is itself that consciousness;
So I myself am that same consciousness.

isa-jivayor vesa-dhi-bhida
sat-svabhavato vastu kevalam
In their real nature as Existence both
Creatures and the Creator are the same,
The Unique Principle. In attributes
And knowledge only is a difference found.

vesa-hanatah svatma-darsanam
isa-darsanam svatma-rupatah
Realization of the Self alone,
Eliminating all its attributes;
Is God-Realization of a truth,
As it is He that shines forth as the Self.

atma-samsthitih svatma-darsanam
atma-nirdvayad atma-nisthata
To be the Self that is to know the Self,
As there is no duality in Self.
This is Thanmaya-Nistha, or the state
Of absolutely being That in truth.

jnana-varjita ' jnana-hina-cit
jnanam asti kim jnatum antaram
That knowledge is true knowledge which transcends
Knowledge and ignorance both equally.
And this alone is truth. For there is no
Subject or object there that can be known.

kim svarupam ity atma-darsane
avyaya' bhava’ ‘purna-cit sukham
If one can only realize at Heart
What one’s true nature is, one then will find
That ‘tis Infinite Wisdom, Truth and Bliss,
Without beginning and without an end.

bandha-mukty-atitam param sukham
vindatiha jivas tu daivikah
Remaining in this state of Supreme Bliss,
Devoid of bondage and of freedom too,
Is found to be a state in which one is
Rapt in perpetual service of the Lord.

aham apetakam nija-vibhanakam
mahad idam tapo ramana-vagiyam
By ardent quest and shedding ego’s veil
Realize the Self, the One that’s ego-less,
And function thus; the sole right penance this.
So teaches Bhagavan Sri Ramana,  Who is the SELF of everything that is.


Bhagavan’s Attendant Venkatarathnam

Sri Venkatarathnam lived with Bhagavan from 1944 to 1950. During the last year he served as one of his personal attendants. Neal Rosner came to Sri Ramanasramam from the USA in 1968, attached himself to Venkatarathnam and diligently served him until his passing in 1976. Neal’s immersion into the spiritual heritage of India under the guidance of Venkatarathnam is elaborately described in his book On the Road to Freedom: A Pilgrimage in India.  Neal now resides in Amritanandamayi’s Kerala Ashram and is known as Swami Paramatmananda.

In the following article, details regarding the life of Venkatarathnam have been extracted from a 25-page essay written about Venkatarathnam by Neal Rosner. He presented this manuscript to us thirty years ago at Sri Ramanasramam. We have also utilized some material from the above-mentioned book. 

THE following is what Sri Venkatarathnam personally told me about himself. He was born in Koduru, Krishna District on the 23rd of May 1921, and at the age of three months his father died of a diabetic carbuncle. At seven his Upanayanam was performed and from that day onwards he never failed to repeat the Gayatri mantra for even a day. Even when in Maharshi’s service, he would not come into his presence without having done some Gayatri beforehand. From his seventh year till his last he performed the yearly Sraddha of his parents. He had deep faith in this and believed that the pitrus (departed ones) would bless him with good health and Brahmajnana. Even when he was physically in a serious condition, he would somehow struggle and do it.

He went to school in Gudivada, Hyderabad and Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. At this time he was somewhat opposed to Hindu orthodoxy and even wrote a paper for the uplift of Harijans, about which he laughed while recalling later. He also now and then would go to see movies of the bhakti type only. He used these occasions at the cinema to test how his mind would react. A scorpion in Hyderabad once stung him, but being afraid to tell his elders, he simply bore the pain until they discovered it and sent him to a doctor. Whenever he had free time from his studies, he would either go to a temple or do japa, sometimes a lakh (100,000) in one day.

Unquenchable Thirst
For some unknown reason, when he was eighteen he started experiencing an intense, unquenchable thirst and was drinking nearly three buckets of water a day, although the quantity of urine passed remained normal. He went to many doctors and was even in the Madras Government Hospital for one month, but no one could find a cause or cure. Finally, when he went to Guntur, someone told him that there was a Hanuman Upasaka, named Sri Hanumadass Garu, and asked whether he would like to see him. He agreed and after going there, Hanuman spoke through Hanumandass’ garb saying that Venkatarathnam had come and that he should go round a Hanuman Temple in Guntur 108 times daily for one month and he would become all right. This he did, and on the night of the 29th day he woke up and on one side of his bed was standing Hanuman and on the other side was a thin, ghostly Muslim. From that time onwards he was free of the thirst. 

Marriage Proposal
After this, Dass Garu initiated him into Hanuman’s puja and japa. Later Hanumanji told Dass Garu that Venkatarathnam should go to Tiruvannamalai and serve Sri Ramana Maharshi.

After he graduated from school, he thought of using the money from a scholarship he was awarded to go and live in Tiruvannamalai, but his brothers wanted him to get married. A rich family who offered a big dowry and a lucrative post was arranged. Even though his mother knew his temperament she had to keep quiet since she was under the influence of her other sons. Venkatarathnam said that they should first ask his guru, Dass Garu, for permission. They searched him out and after finding him proposed their idea. Dass Garu said that it would be all right if Venkatarathnam got married. When the brothers returned thinking victory was in their hands, Sri Venkatarathnam objected, saying that according to Sastra, a brahmachari must first serve a Guru before entering into Grihastashrama (married life). No one accepted this evasive objection and so he told them that if such a thing is not written in the Sastras, he was ready to burn the Sastras. He asked them to immediately bring the Bhagavata and Ramayana and he would set fire to them. Naturally they did not want to be a party to this crime, and so they helplessly let him go to Arunachalam. He, however, told them that he would go only on an experimental basis and if it suited him there he would stay, otherwise he would return. At this time one of his brothers declared, “You will all see. He will become a sadhu for sure,” and this came out to be true.

At Ramanasramam
Accompanied by a friend, he came to Sri Ramanasramam in 1944. On arriving there he found that Siva Mohan Lal, an intimate brother bhakta from Hyerabad, was there. After showing him the Ashram, Lal brought him to the presence of the Maharshi and introduced him. Sri Venkatarathnam sat down to do japa, but strangely he could not remember his mantra even though he had repeated it so many lakhs of times.  Suddenly, there was revealed in his heart an infinite Expanse of Pure Consciousness, the Atma, and this experience lasted for some time. He stayed for a few days in the Ashram and then returned to his mother, but all the way back in the train this same experience occurred again and again.

He told his mother all this and she said, “Better you go back to Bhagavan. It is clear that he wants you there with him. Only promise me that you will not take sannyasa.” He promised and returned to Arunachalam with the blessings of his mother. He later said that it was only much later that he realized the depth of his mother’s wisdom in making him promise not to become a sannyasi.

At the Ashram he was put in charge of the book depot. He later laughed when telling this because it seems that one astrologer had told him that he would get married and do business and he really thought this is what happened because he had married Sri Ramana and was selling his books. Afterwards he became an assistant of Sri Niranjanananda Swami, Sri Ramana’s younger brother and the Sarvadhikari of the Ashram. Then he was put in charge of the Ashram library and the books that were kept for the personal use of Bhagavan. Bhagavan personally taught him to bind and stitch books and also to read and write Tamil. Once, while demonstrating to him how to stitch a book, Bhagavan caught hold of his hands to guide him. While making the stitch, Sri Venkatarathnam’s sacred thread got intertwined in the stitching thread and got stitched into the book by Bhagavan. It was an awkward situation and they both laughed.

Bhagavan’s Attendant
In 1949, Shiv Mohan Lal asked Bhagavan if Sri Venkatarathnam could join as one of Sri Bhagavan’s personal attendants. Bhagavan told that he had no objection but that the office people must give the permission, which they did.

Bhagavan was very strict in correcting him and if anything was done improperly it would be a matter of two days of continuous chiding in front of all the devotees.

One evening Sri Venkatarathnam came into the hall and quietly went behind the Maharshi and started fanning him. In the morning Bhagavan had told that nobody should fan him. Now he exploded and scolded him saying, “Oho, very good, very special, this fellow thinks he is doing a great service. He has so much bhakti, much more than the rest of the bhaktas here. Why doesn’t he go and fan all of them and get the punya (merit) of fanning the devotees of the Guru? He thinks that by his tapas he can make me bend to his will.” Bhagavan spoke like this on and off to every incoming devotee for nearly two days. Finally, when alone with the Maharshi, Sri Venkatarathnam broke down in tears and asked Bhagavan to forgive him for having made Bhagavan exert himself so much to correct his fault. Sri Bhagavan graciously said, “Never mind, everyone makes a mistake,” and that was the end of the matter.  Bhagavan then had about six or seven attendants who would serve him taking shifts. When it came time to choose shifts, they asked Venkatarathnam which shift he wanted. He told them that he would take that shift which remains after everyone else had chosen for himself. So he got the 10 P.M. to 4 A.M. shift, since everyone liked to sleep at that time. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because after 9.30 P.M. all the bhaktas would go away to sleep and Venkatarathnam and Sri Maharshi would be left all alone for the night. It was at this time that Sri Venkatarathnam got his heart’s desire to be intimately close to Bhagavan without others around fulfilled. Many nights were spent in spiritual talk or simply gazing on the Divine Face of the Maharshi.

Failing Health
By this time, Sri Bhagavan’s health was already serious with sarcoma cancer in the left arm. At the sight of the blood while dressing the wound, Sri Venkatarathnam would feel faint. Whenever he would come near Bhagavan, Maharshi would rebuke him thus, “Don’t come near me. You people come here thinking ‘0h, Bhagavan is sick. He is dying’. I don’t want you to come near me when your mind is full of such thoughts. Stay away.” Then Sri Venkatarathnam asked Bhagavan that without thinking that Bhagavan is sick or that such and such a thing must be done to relieve the suffering, how can he serve Bhagavan? Bhagavan told him that he should simply play his part as in a drama and do whatever is necessary without having any feeling and to have the mental attitude of a witness, attending to the work as the situation demands. After this, he again was permitted to attend on the Maharshi. Following Bhagavan’s instructions, he began to feel everything as Atma Vilasa (the Divine Play) and that Bhagavan was simply playing a role as a sick person, although in reality he was the Paramatma Himself. 

After Sri Maharshi’s Nirvana on 14 April 1950, Sri Venkatarathnam felt relieved rather than pained at his passing away. When I asked him why this was so, he said that until that time, he constantly had to be extremely alert to attend to Bhagavan externally but now he felt that he could devote his mind to Him and internally dive into Him. Nevertheless, he would feel sad when he thought of the love and concern that Maharshi had shown towards him and would sometimes weep. After the 10th day following Bhagavan’s Mahanirvana he left for Gudivada and then to Sri Sailem with a friend. 

In Sri Sailem he used to go to the forest for dhyana and thought he should stay there practicing what Sri Maharshi had taught him, i.e., Atma Vichara. One night he had a dream in which Maharshi appeared dressed in a gold cloth and chided him saying, “Why are you acting like this?” He understood that this meant he should not withdraw and that Sri Bhagavan was watching over him and protecting him, so he returned to Ramanasramam.

Serving Mother
In 1952 he went to serve his mother who was ailing with paralysis and wanted him nearby. She had already spent a year or two at Arunachalam with him in the presence of the Maharshi. When she first came to the Ashram, Sri Venkatarathnam went and prostrated to her and returned to the bookstall where he was working at that time. On seeing this, Niranjanananda Swamy chided him for not showing his mother round the Ashram and finding her a place to stay. He said, “Oho, I see, you are a gunatita (beyond all differences) and need not serve your mother, is it?” Then Sri Venkatarathnam went and got her settled in a room, since the Sarvadhikari had ordered him to do so.

Whenever his mother would sit in Bhagavan’s presence, she would become completely unconscious of the world. Even after everyone had gone out for food she would be sitting like that in trance. She told her son this and he suggested that she sit outside near a window facing Bhagavan. He later related that she really had the Grace of Bhagavan during her residence there. When others told her that it was a sorry thing that one of her sons had become a sadhu, she retorted and said that because she was a woman she could not live as a sadhu but her desire to do so had found its fulfillment in her son, Sri Venkatarathnam.

When he came to serve her in his home, she insisted on taking food only from his hands, even though he was not maintaining madi (orthodox procedures). He had personally served and touched the body of the Maharshi and that consecrated everything he touched afterward, she thought. She always kept a photo of the 21-year-old Maharshi by her head. Every day after bathing his mother, he would read to her Bhagavatam, as this was her favorite book.  As her end approached, Sri Venkatarathnam would everyday keep the Darbha Seyya (kusa grass mat) under her cot, as it was her only wish that she should die on the Darbha Seyya and not on the cot. On the last day he shifted her to the ground in spite of the cold and damp weather and the objections of Venkatarathnam’s brothers. Then he kept her head in his lap and plunged himself into dhyana. At that time the same experience of an infinite expanse of Grace in the heart, which he had had in Sri Ramana’s presence, occurred again, and it was while he was in this state that his mother expired in his hands.

Yatra (Pilgrimage)
After six months he and his eldest sister went on a yatra to North India and performed the karma for their mother in different holy places. He had gone to Sringeri to have darshan of H. H. Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Swamiji who had recently come out of prolonged mouna. He asked the Swamiji for his ashirvadams (blessings) for Atma Sakshatkara. The Swamiji asked him if he wanted to take sannyasa and he answered that he did not know what was best for himself and that whatever Jagadguru says he was prepared to do. The Swamiji then gave him a song in praise of the Jivanmukti written by Sri Sadasiva Brahmendra Saraswati and told him to repeat it and to go to Badrinath. Because he had not taken leave of Bhagavan at his samadhi site, he returned to Arunachalam and then went north.

WANDERINGS AND COMPANY OF SAINTS DURING the subsequent ten years after Bhagavan’s Mahasamadhi, Venkatarathnam spent his time going on pilgrimage, meeting with devotees, mahatmas and saints, but always returing to Arunachalam and Bhagavan’s ashram.

In 1956 Sri Venkatarathnam went to Kerala on foot and took a vow not to ask anyone for food or water and to only accept whatever was given unasked. He also chose not disclose his identity as a disciple of the Maharshi to anyone during his travels in Kerala, and he did not carry money with him. He spent about six months like this, depending entirely on God, in order to test how deep his surrender actually was.

In 1967 the Mahakumbabhishekam of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Samadhi was performed and Venkatarathnam was then requested to serve in the Ashram. He continued this service until September 1969.

I first met Venkatarathnam [writes Neal Rosner] in September 1968. Venkatarathnam was returning to his room after completing the seva at Sri Ramana’s Samadhi. When I saw his face which was glowing with tejas and ananda a shock went through my being and I wondered who he might be. The next night I met him on the Hill where he was talking to some devotees about Divine Consciousness. Someone asked, “What is the flash of Divine Consciousness?” He replied that it is like a flash of lightning which illumines everything for a moment and then everything is dark again. Just then there was a brilliant flash of lightning, as if to demonstrate what he has just said.

At this time Sri Venkatarathnam was very busy with his daily routine which was roughly as follows: 3:30 a.m. got up, swept the room, went to the latrine, etc.; 4:30 a.m., finished bath, sandhya (puja), japa and cleaned his altar; 5:15, went to Bhagavan’s Samadhi, cleaned and swept it, and then arranged for the 6:15 puja. From 7 to 8:15 he performed his own Panchyatana puja, 8:15 to 9:15 he did Samadhi puja and from 9:30 to 11:30 did japa and studied the Srimad Bagavatam. Then he partook of food. From 12 to 2 p.m. he rested or spent the time in visiting and meeting devotees. 2 to 4 p.m., he wrote letters, etc; 4 p.m. bath; 4:30 to 6:30, Samadhi Shrine work, Veda Parayana and puja; 6:30 to 7 p.m., sandhya and japa; 7:30 was mealtime; and 8 to 11 p.m., miscellaneous activities or satsang; 11 p.m. sleep. It was at this time that I started assisting him in work, like picking flowers for puja, sweeping or any other service he might give me to do. While near Bhagavan’s Samadhi he would not speak to anyone unless it was regarding the immediate work at hand. He often said, “The Samadhi is the same as Sri Bhagavan. As I felt near his body during his lifetime, I feel the same near his Samadhi now. It is Him only.”

Frequently he would go on Giripradakshina during the nights after 8:30, usually returning only the next morning, and then again start the daily routine without even resting. I asked him how could bear the strain day after day.  He simply said that when there is love of God one doesn’t feel any strain however great it may be. It is only when the love and interest go away that boredom and strain are felt. If any new bhaktas would come to visit from outside he always made it a point to go and meet them and spend time with them, more so if they had real devotion and sincerity. He spent many sleepless nights like this in satsang. In 1967, on May 14th he met with H. H. Sri Chandrashekharendra Saraswati Swamiji, Jagadguru Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham, for the third time and received from him mantra diksha of Siva Panchakshari mantra. He also received a Hayagriva Salagram from His Holiness. After this he used to daily repeat 2,000 - 3,000 Gayatri mantras and 5,000 - 10,000 Panchakshari mantras. By the middle of 1969 he had done 14 lakhs [1.4 million] of the Panchakshari mantra. In August 1969, he decided to somehow complete the minimum number of japa as recommended by His Holiness and proceed to Hyderabad to perform the yearly sraddha of his parents. To do this he had to sit for japa eight hours a day and after finally finishing it he had a physical breakdown. After some days bedridden, he left for Hyderabad in October 1969.

When I came to Hyderabad to meet him, I found him in Osmania General Hospital with a fractured right hip. Riding as a passenger on a scooter he was struck by a taxi. When I asked him how he had such an accident he said, “What accident? Is birth an accident? Is there any such thing as an accident for a bhakta? It is the sweet will of the Lord, that is all.”

The area around his hospital bed literally became an ashram, with photos of Sri Ramana and Arunachala, observance of occasional festivals like Ramana Jayanti and Karthik Deepotsavam. There seemed to be a continuous stream of devotees from 9:00 a.m. till midnight, or later. Usually in the nights I expected that I could get some rest, but at that hour the attending physician, who was a bhakta, used to come and enjoy the satsang till midnight or 1.00 a.m.

At this time, his revered friend Avadhutendra Saraswati Swamiji, came to Hyderabad to see him, and visited him every day for some time. Sri Gangeswarananda Swami, a great blind Vedic scholar, also came to the hospital and Sri Venkatarathnam did pada puja to him from the bed itself and then presented him with new clothes, etc. A number of other saints also came. At the time of going into the operation room, Sri Venkatarathnam suddenly experienced such a high state of Divine ecstacy that he felt that the operation could be done without the usual anaesthesia, as he was feeling completely devoid of identification with the body. Most of the people present mistook this ecstacy for either fear or insanity, but the real bhaktas recognized it as a very high state. After returning from the operation, the area around his bed was serene with the peace of Brahman radiating all round while bhajans went on for a long time. Afterwards Venkatarathnam used to say to the more worldly devotees, “See, you people say that I am a sadhu and that if I fall sick, who will look after me since everyone is so busy with his own family affairs and has no time to attend to a sick sadhu. Well, who sent this Nealu [the name he called Neal Rosner] here? I did not write to him or call him to come here. God has sent him here to look after me. It is said that God Himself takes on the responsibility to look after those devotees who depend entirely on Him. Now you can see the truth of it.”  After four months he was discharged from the hospital and stayed at Malakpet with Sri V. Srinivasan, who was the Inspector General of Prisons at that time. He and his wife treated Sri Venakatarathnam with the fullest hospitality and affection for more than two months. For the rest of his life he was grateful to them for the love and concern which they had showered on him at that time. This was May 1970.

From Hyderabad we traveled north with Swami Avadhutendra Saraswati and eventually reached Nepal in August 1970. After Swamiji left us in Kathmandu, we flew to Pokhara and from there walked seventy miles into the Himalayas to Muktinath, the Abode of Muktinarayana. This place is sometimes called Salagrama Kshetra and is the 107th Dham on earth, Vaikuntha being the 108th. This walk was extremely difficult. We often got lost in the forests and were caught in darkness before we could reach the next village. Because I was a foreigner and lacked security clearance, government officials made me stop about ten miles before reaching Muktinath, a politically sensitive area at the time. Venkatarathnam and his sister proceeded alone. The way was very dangerous and windy and they even turned back once or twice thinking that they would get blown into the rushing river far below. One night before reaching Muktinath, Sri Venkatarathnam suddenly got up and was loudly repeating ‘Vishnu Sahasranam’ at about 1 a.m. In the morning he told me that he had a vision of people with water pots on their heads, going from a river to a temple which had a big Chakra in front of it. He had woke to the loud sound ‘Narayana, Narayana’ ringing in his ears, as if someone were shouting it in the room. It was then that he started doing the ‘Vishnu Sahasranam’. He said that usually when he gets within a certain distance of the destination, he will have a dream about the deity of that place and the name Siva or Narayana will be ringing in his ears. When they finally reached Muktinath, sure enough there was a big chakra in front of the temple as he had seen in the vision. Proceeding to Durgapur, we accompanied his sister, her husband and daughter to Gaya, Kashi, and Prayaga, doing sraddha and puja in all the places. This took about three weeks. When we reached Jhunsi we unexpectedly found Swamiji there, and spent about two weeks at Brahmachariji’s ashram. From that time till mid 1972 we were either at Arunachalam or travelling with Swamiji to various bhajans and Saptahas [day and night bhajan programs]