How My Father Came to the Maharshi

MY father’s spiritual life started in his boyhood when he had darshan of Lord Siva in the guise of an old man. This continued to carry him further and further till it induced him to resign his job at Alleppey in Kerala and plunge into the ocean of spiritual quest. He then took to a wandering life, visiting shrines and holy places of South India, together with his wife. This was long before he came face to face with Bhagavan.

He was able to maintain himself on his wanderings, being a musician who gave harikirthanas. He and his wife had a number of thrilling experiences which proved that the Lord is indeed One and pervades everywhere.

In 1928, he settled at Coimbatore and in 1930 I had the good fortune of being born as his son. Often poverty stared him in the face, but he never actually lacked food.

When the last meal was finished and he was left wondering about the morrow the next would appear, but only the next. Many sadhus used to visit him, directed by Providence, either as a means to strengthen his faith or to test his strength.

It was in 1933 that he first went to Tiruvannamalai, with the hope of earning something. He felt a desire to see the person he had heard spoken of as ‘the Maharshi’.

Bhagavan was going through some papers when he first saw him. After a while he raised his head, shaking slightly as usual, and beckoned my father to approach. Hesitant at first, but then convinced that he was calling him, my father went up to Bhagavan and prostrated.

“So you have come from Coimbatore? And how is the family?” Bhagavan said, showing, as he sometimes did, knowledge of the circumstances.

“Wait a little,” Bhagavan said, and in that ‘little’ wait, Nilakanta (my father) was caught as in an eternity.

“Come let us go to the hall,” Bhagavan said, tapping him. Without a word, Nilakanta got up to follow him but then, with a sudden shock, he saw the Divine Father walking in front of him. Unable to control himself, he cried out “Appa!” (Father). By that time Bhagavan had turned into the doorway of the hall and Nilakanta, hurried after him, beholding the God Subrahmanyam ahead of him. Before he had time to think, Bhagavan was in the hall and motioned to him to sit on his right at the foot of the couch. There he sat, feeling like a child at the feet of his father. The minutes ticked by. People were coming in, asking questions, prostrating, but Nilakanta was oblivious of all this. Then the lunch gong sounded and people got up and went out as usual, taking it for granted that Bhagavan, who was always punctual, would go too. But he did not get up. Nor did Nilakanta.

Nilakanta heard a silent voice asking him: “What do you want?” And silently he answered, “Grace.” Still neither of them moved. Nilakanta did not even look up at Bhagavan. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder and, looking up, he saw the Sarvadhikari who whispered, “Bhagavan won’t get up unless you do. People are waiting in the dining hall.”

Nilakanta looked up and saw Bhagavan’s usually shaking head as firm as a rock while, through half-closed eyes he was bestowing on him a penetrating look1 of boundless love and grace! Surrounding Bhagavan’s head was a golden halo the size of an umbrella inside which golden light-waves emanating from Bhagavan’s head were radiating. Nilakanta forgot everything. In one leap he was at Bhagavan’s side and had flung his arms round him. In a voice husky with love he said: “My Father, your devotees are waiting for you. Shall we go?” “Is that so?” Bhagavan immediately replied. “Yes, of course we will go.” And he left for the dining hall followed by Nilakanta.

My father told me that after that there was no further need for him to visit Bhagavan physically. Over the years, as I can testify, my father’s features began to change, taking on something of the appearance of Bhagavan. Devotees and even strangers would look at him and then at the wonderful picture of Bhagavan at his side and exclaim on the likeness.

To the last he used to refer to Bhagavan as his father, and indeed, when I voluntarily took over the massaging of his legs I used to feel that Bhagavan was giving me an opportunity to serve him in that form.

On the day prior to his leaving the body, oxygen had to be administered. Suddenly my brother and I began to chant the holy refrain “Arunachala-Siva”. We were supporting him in a sitting position. He opened his eyes and looked at the picture of Bhagavan in front of him. Tears began to trickle down his face. He indicated that we should lay him down. There was a beautiful smile on his lips. Soon after this he lost consciousness and throughout the night we chanted Bhagavan’s “Marital Garland of Letters to Sri Arunachala”. Incense was burning. A sweet and holy silence filled the entire house. Even the children, usually noisy, were very quiet. There was no movement in his body except breathing. At 5.30, on October 20th, 1961, the eastern horizon glowed red as though the Holy Arunachala were giving us darshan.

There was a slight movement and it was over. There was no weeping or outer show of grief. As it was puja season, the whole city through which we carried the body wore a festive appearance, with music, flowers, pandals and images of Mother Durga.

Thus ended the story of the body. The spark of Bhagavan Ramana’s eternal flame which had occupied Nilakanta’s body merged into its Source in Bhagavan Ramana.

— The Mountain Path, Vol. 1, 1968

G.V. Subbaramayya


By Prof. G. V. Subbaramayya

LET me recall some indications by Bhagavan that will help to keep the aspirant on the right path, safe from pitfalls. Such reminders are necessary lest, with the passage of time, the clarity of his teaching gets blurred.

The final aim and purpose of all sadhana — fasts, prayers, pilgrimages, penances, etc. — is, he reminded us, to annihilate the ego through perfect control of the mind and thereby to realize the true Self. This should be always borne in mind lest the aspirant get too attached to his technique and mistake it for the purpose when it is only the means. Any sadhana is only a road to reach the destination and never a residence.

The practice of Self-enquiry is the direct method since it directly tackles the mind, but it does not exclude other practices, which may suit the particular aspirant owing to his samskaras or predispositions due to prarabdha or previous destiny. All sadhanas lead to the same goal.

When we speak of Self-realization, it is to be remembered that the Self is not some wonder that will drop down from the heavens before our gaze. It is not anything outside us or anything perceptible to the mind or senses. It is the real Self or I that every one of us is in fact. Therefore, Self-realization is only being what we are. This comes about on transcending the dualities (good and bad) and triads (knowledge-knower-known), when the unreal accretions of the mind disperse.

Self-enquiry is not a catechism or a mental process of question and answer. The question ‘Who am I?’ is not intended to provoke an answer such as ‘I am this’ or ‘I am that’ but is only a means to still the mind. When a thought arises one is not to pursue it but to ask oneself to whom it occurs. The answer is ‘to me’, and this provokes the further question, ‘Who am I?’. With this the first thought disappears.

The mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts that incessantly arise. If the above process is repeated every time a thought arises all thoughts vanish and the mind dwells solely on the basic I-thought. With sufficient practice it gets rid of its thought content and becomes transformed into the real ‘I’ or true Self which shines continuously of its own accord. The aspirant’s effort terminates in complete stilling of the mind. What follows is automatic like the sun’s shining after the clouds have passed.

Since the real Self is the repository of all power, as of everything else, the aspirant, in his quest for the Self, may or may not acquire powers or siddhi. This is dependent on his prarabdha or self-made destiny. In a realized Man these occur unsought and manifest themselves naturally. For an aspirant to seek them or make use of them deliberately is harmful; it is likely to strengthen his ego and thereby hamper his spiritual progress. The right attitude for him is to remain indifferent whether they come or not and concentrate on Self-realization.

There is no contradiction between so-called ‘worldly’ life and spiritual practice. We can remain in society, practising any trade or profession, and at the same time remember all along what we really are. We should not identify ourselves with our body senses or mind but remember that we are the all-pervading Spirit.

Either we surrender to the Supreme Spirit, Self or God, by whatever name we may call It, or go on enquiring what we really are until we realize our identity with It. Not only are professional work and spiritual effort not contradictory but the latter helps to perfect the former and even makes it a means of selfpurification, which is a prerequisite of Self-realization.

In conclusion, let us never forget the greatness and glory of Sri Bhagavan. At the age of seventeen He attained Self-realization by spontaneous effort, with no instruction and no outer Guru. The remainder of his life was only a leela or ‘play’ in which the Supreme manifested its Grace by radiating his Glory and diffusing Peace and Bliss around that ‘Mighty Impersonality’, as the poet Harindranath Chattopadhyaya once called Bhagavan (when someone else had been called a ‘mighty personality’). The term ‘Bhagavan’ is sometimes used as a honorific title for holy personages but Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi is Bhagavan in the fullest sense of the word. Glory to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi!

—The Mountain Path, Vol. 4, 1968