Letter 149

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28th September, 1947

This morning, a North Indian wrote the following on a slip of paper and handed it over to Bhagavan.

“If I could have audience (darshan) of the real form (swarupa) of Lord Krishna in Brindavanam, would I find the strength to rid myself of all my troubles? I want to have audience with Him to tell Him all my troubles.”

Bhagavan replied, “Yes, what is the difficulty? It can be done all right. After seeing Him, all our burdens will be transferred to Him. Even now, why worry about it? Throw all the burden on Him and He will see to it.”

The questioner: “If I want to see the real form of Lord Krishna, do I have to go to Brindavanam and meditate, or could it be done anywhere?”

Bhagavan: “One should realize one’s own Self and when that is done, Brindavanam is wherever one is. There is no need to go from place to place thinking that Brindavanam is somewhere else. Those who have the urge to go, may go, but there is nothing imperative about it.

Arjuna, I am the Self seated in the hearts of all beings. I am the beginning, the middle and also the end of all beings.

-- Bhagavad Gita, X: 20

“Where one is, there is Brindavanam. If one enquires as to who one is and what one is, and finds out the truth, one becomes oneself. To resolve all inherent desires into one’s own Self is real surrender. After that, our burden is His.”

A priest, one Sastri, who was present, enquired, “It is said in the Bhagavad Gita, XIII: 10 ‘Vivikta desa sevitvam aratir janasamsadi’. What is meant by ‘vivikta desa’?”

Bhagavan replied, “‘vivikta desa’ is that where there is nothing but the Supreme Self, the Paramatma. ‘aratir janasamsadi’ means to remain without getting mixed up with, or absorbed by the five senses (vishayas). It is these five senses that rule the majority of people. ‘Vivikta desa’ is that state in which they are in abeyance.”

The questioner said, “The ‘vivikta desa’ state to which Bhagavan refers is, I take it, the state of intuitive experience (aparoksha), and if so, that state of intuitive experience can only be attained if one follows the precepts, i.e., does sadhana, for keeping the senses in abeyance. Is that right?”

“Yes, that is so,” replied Bhagavan. “In the Vasudeva Mananam and in other books, it is stated that one has to gain conceptual realization (paroksha jnana) with the help of a Guru by the act of hearing (sravana) and musing (manana), and then gain knowledge of ‘intuitive experience (aparoksha)’ by spiritual practice, and by consequent complete maturity of the mind. It is stated in the Vicharasagara: ‘Intuitive experience (aparoksha) is always present; the only obstacle is conceptual knowledge (paroksha)’.

Spiritual practice (sadhana) is required to remove the obstacle; there is no question of attaining intuitive experience. It is all the same — hearing and the like, are necessary whether it is to know the intuitive, or to remove the obstacles. Those who are able to overcome the three-faced obstacles are likened to the naked light in a windless place, or to the ocean in a waveless state; both are true. When one feels the Self within one’s body, it is like the naked light in a windless place; when one feels that the Self is all-pervading, it is like the waveless ocean.”

Letter 148

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26th September, 1947
A devotee who had been listening to all that Bhagavan had said yesterday morning about past bondages, came and sat near Bhagavan today.

The devotee spoke: “Yesterday, Bhagavan was pleased to tell us about past bondages, but he did not tell us anything about present and future bondages.” “That is so,” said Bhagavan, “but then has not Sri Vidyaranya, in his Panchadasi explained in detail about future bondages and the way in which deliverance from them can be had?” “I have not read the Panchadasi,” said the devotee.

“Then I will tell you,” said Bhagavan, and proceeded to expound it: “Present bondages are said to be of four types — ‘vishaya asakti lakshanam’, ‘buddhi mandyam’, ‘kutharkam’ and ‘viparyaya duragraham’. The first of these means great desire for material things; the second, inability to grasp the teachings and expositions of the Guru; the third means to understand perversely the teachings of the Guru; the fourth is to feel egoistically that ‘I am learned in the Vedas’, ‘I am a Pandit’, ‘I am an ascetic’. These four are called present bondages. If it is asked how these can be overcome, the first can be overcome by tranquillity (sama), by curbing the evil propensities of the mind (dama), by detachment (uparati) and by indifference to external things (titiksha). The second type can be overcome by hearing the teachings of the Guru over and over again; the third by reflection or contemplation; and the fourth by profound meditation on a thought. If, in this way, the obstacles are removed and destroyed, seekers get confirmed in their belief that they are themselves the embodiment of the Self (atma-swarupa).

“As for future bondages, they arise from acts done without anyone knowing they are sinful. How can this be discovered? A seeker should recognize it as a future bondage when some action presents itself which makes him feel that he wishes to do it because the doing of it is an act of human kindness and sympathy; and so he is tempted into doing it. He does not realise that the act will be the cause of future bondage. If he thinks that, by being a non-doer (akarta) and worldly-detached (asanga), the fulfilment of the desire will not affect him and he can therefore do the act, he will become bound all the same and will be freed from the bondage only after several more births. That future bondages result in re-births is authoritatively stated in the Scriptures (srutis and smritis).

Vasudeva, for instance, had one more birth, Bharata had two more, and others many more. Hence a seeker must bear in mind the three bondages and carefully avoid them. If he does not avoid them there can be no doubt that he will have more births. ‘Whosoever is released from these three bondages, for him deliverance (mukti) is certain,’ said Vidyaranya. All this is mentioned also in the Vasudeva Mananam in which, in addition to this, a number of stories are related. The story of Bharjuva and that of Yajnapasu are particularly interesting, as also that of Asura Vasana. For each aspect of these bondages, a separate story is given by way of illustration. Have you not read even that?” “I did read it when young but did not realise that it contains such important matters. I will look into it again, Bhagavan.” With that, the devotee took his leave of Bhagavan.

Letter 147

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25th September, 1947
Bhagavan was reading something from a Malayalam book yesterday afternoon. Someone nearby enquired whether it was the Vasishtam, and Bhagavan replied in the affirmative. A Pandit who was there began discussing the stories in the Vasishtam, and said, “Swami, there will be several bondages for the attainment of realization, will there not?” Bhagavan, who was reclining on the sofa, sat up and said, “Yes, that is so. They are the bondages of the past, the future and the present.” “Of past bondages there is a story in the Upanishads and also in the Vasudeva Mananam. A brahmin with a large family acquired a she-buffalo and, by selling milk, curds, ghee, etc., he maintained his family. He was fully occupied the whole day with obtaining fodder, green grass, cotton seed, etc. for the buffalo and in feeding her. His wife and children passed away, one after the other. He then concentrated all his love and affection on the buffalo, but, after a time, the buffalo too passed away. Being thus left alone and disgusted with family life, he took to sannyasa, renouncing the world, and began practising prayer and meditation at the feet of a Holy Teacher (Sadguru).

“After some days, the Guru called him and said, ‘You have been doing spiritual practices (sadhana) for several days now. Have you found any benefit from them?’ The brahmin then related the above story of his life, and said, ‘Swami, at that time I used to love the buffalo mostly because it was the mainstay of my family. Though it passed away long ago, yet when I am deeply engrossed in meditation, it always appears in my thoughts. What am I to do?’ The Guru, realizing that it was a past bondage, said, ‘My dear friend, the Brahman is said to be ‘asti, bhati and priyam’. Asti means omnipresent; bhati means lustre; priyam means love.

That buffalo, being an object of your love, it also is the Brahman. It has a name and a form; so what you should do is to give up your own name and form as well as those of the buffalo. If that is done, what remains is the Brahman itself. Therefore, give up names and forms and meditate.’ “The brahmin then meditated, giving up both of them, and attained realization (jnana). Name and form are past bondages. The fact is, that which IS, is only one. It is omnipresent and universal. We say ‘here is a table’, ‘there is a bird’, or ‘there is a man’. There is thus a difference in name and form only, but That which IS, is present everywhere and at all times. That is what is known as asti, omnipresent. To say that a thing is existent, there must be someone to see — a Seer. That intelligence to see is known as bhati. There must be someone to say, ‘I see it, I hear it, I want it’. That is priyam. All these three are the attributes of nature — the natural Self. They are also called existence consciousness, bliss (sat-chit-ananda).” Another devotee queried, “If priyam (Love), is a natural attribute, it should be existent no matter what the object may be. Why then is it not existent when we see a tiger or a snake?” Bhagavan replied, “We ourselves may not have any love for them, but every species has love towards its own kind, hasn’t it? A tiger loves a tiger, and a snake a snake. So also a thief loves a thief and a debauchee a debauchee. Thus, love is always existent. There is a picture presented to you on a screen. That screen is asti, omnipresent, and the light that shows the pictures is bhati and priyam, lustre and love.

The pictures with names and forms come and go. If one is not deluded by them and discards them, the canvas screen, which has been there all through, remains as it is. We see pictures on the screen with the help of a small light in an atmosphere of darkness; if that darkness be dispelled by a big light, can the pictures be visible? The whole place becomes luminous and lustrous. If, in the same way, you see the world with the small light called mind, you find it full of different colours. But if you see it with the big light known as Self-realization (atma-jnana), you will find that it is one continuous universal light and nothing else.”

Letter 146

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21st September, 1947
From the time Bhagavan told me about the probable reason for the establishment of Manikkavachakar’s Mutt in Adi Annamalai I have been keen to hear the story of his birth and achievements. When an opportunity came I asked: “It is stated that while Manikkavachakar was singing the Tiruvachakam, Natarajamurthy wrote it down. Is it true? Where was he born?” BHAGAVAN: “Yes. It is true. That story will be found in Halasya Mahatmyam. Don’t you know?” NAGAMMA: “There is no copy of Halasya Mahatmyam in Telugu here. So I do not know.” BHAGAVAN: “I see. If that is so, I shall tell you the story in brief.” So saying Bhagavan narrated the following story: “Manikkavachakar was born in a village called Vadavur (Vatapuri) in Pandya Desha. Because of that people used to call him Vadavurar. He was put to school very early. He read all religious books, absorbed the lessons therein, and became noted for his devotion to Siva, as also his kindness to living beings. Having heard about him, the Pandya King sent for him, made him his Prime Minister and conferred on him the title of ‘Thennavan Brahmarayan’, i.e., Premier among brahmins in the south. Though he performed the duties of a minister with tact and integrity, he had no desire for material happiness. His mind was always absorbed in spiritual matters. Feeling convinced that for the attainment of jnana, the grace of a Guru was essential, he kept on making enquiries about it.

“Once the Pandya King ordered the minister to purchase some good horses and bring them to him. As he was already in search of a Guru, Manikkavachakar felt that it was a good opportunity and started with his retinue carrying with him the required amount of gold. As his mind was intensely seeking a Guru, he visited all the temples on the way. While doing so he reached a village called Tiruperundurai. Having realised the maturity of the mind of Manikkavachakar, Parameswara assumed the form of a school teacher and for about a year before that had been teaching poor children in the village seated on a street pial, near the temple. He was taking his meal in the house of his pupils every day by turn. He ate only cooked green vegetables. He was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Manikkavachakar. By the time Manikkavachakar actually came, Ishwara assumed the shape of a Siddha Purusha (realised soul) with many sannyasis around him and was seated under a Kurundai (yellow amanth) tree within the compound of the temple. Vadavuraar came to the temple, had darshan of the Lord in it, and while going round the temple by way of pradakshina, saw the Siddha Purusha. He was thrilled at the sight, tears welled up in his eyes and his heart jumped with joy. Spontaneously, his hands went up to his head in salutation and he fell down at the feet of the Guru like an uprooted tree. Then he got up, and prayed that he, a humble being, may also be accepted as a disciple. Having come down solely to bestow grace on him, Ishwara, by his mere look, immediately gave him Jnana Upadesa (initiation into knowledge). That upadesa took deep root in his heart, and gave him indescribable happiness. With folded hands and with joyful tears, he went round the Guru by way of pradakshina, offered salutations, stripped himself of all his official dress and ornaments, placed them near the Guru and stood before him with only a kowpeenam on. As he felt like singing in praise of the Guru he sang some devotional songs, which were like gems. Ishwara was pleased, and addressing him as Manikkavachakar, ordered him to remain there itself worshipping Him. Then He vanished.

“Fully convinced that He who had blessed him was no other than Ishwara Himself, Manikkavachakar was stricken with unbearable grief and fell on the ground weeping and saying, “Oh! my lord, why did you go away leaving me here?” The villagers were very much surprised at this and began a search for the person who was till then working in their village as a school-teacher but could not find him anywhere. Then they realised that it was the Lord’s leela. Some time later, Manikkavachakar got over his grief, decided to act according to the injunctions of Ishwara, sent away his retinue to Madurai, spent all the gold with him on the temple and stayed there alone.

Hearing all that had happened, the king immediately sent an order to Manikkavachakar to return to Madurai.

But then how could he go to the king without the horses? If he wanted to purchase them then, where was the money? Not knowing what to do, he prayed to Lord Siva for help.

That night Lord Siva appeared to him in a dream, gave him a priceless gem and said, “Give this to the king and tell him the horses will come on the day of the Moola star in the month of Sravana.” Startled at that vision he opened his eyes, but the Lord was not there. Manikkavachakar was however overjoyed at what had happened, put on his official dress and went to Madurai. He gave the gem to the king, discussed the auspicious time when the horses would be arriving and then was anxiously waiting for the day. He did not however resume his official duties. Though his body was in Madurai, his mind was in Tiruperundurai. He was merely biding time.

The Pandyan King, however, sent his spies to Perundurai and found out that there were no horses there meant for the king and that all the money meant for their purchase had been spent in the renovation of the temple. So he immediately put Manikkavachakar in prison making him undergo all the trials and tribulations of jail life.

“Meanwhile, as originally arranged, on the day of the Moola star, Ishwara assumed the guise of a horseman, transformed the jackals of the jungle into horses, and brought them to the king. The king was astonished at this, took delivery of the horses and according to the advice of the keeper of the stables, had them tied up at the same place where all his other horses were kept. He thanked the horseman profusely, and after sending him away with several presents, released Manikkavachakar from jail with profuse apologies. The same night, the new horses changed into their real forms, killed all the horses in the stables, ate them, created similar havoc in the city and fled. The king grew very angry, branded Manikkavachakar as a trickster and put him back into jail. Soon in accordance with Iswara’s orders, the waters of the river Vaigai rose in floods and the whole of the city of Madurai was under water. Alarmed at that, the king assembled all the people and ordered them to raise up the bunds of the river. For the purpose, he ordered that every citizen should do a certain amount of work with a threat of dire consequences should he fail to do his allotted work.

“There was in Madurai an old woman by name ‘Pittuvani Ammaiyar’. She was a pious devotee of Lord Siva. She was living alone earning her livelihood by daily preparing and selling ‘pittu’ (pittu is sweetened powdered rice pressed into conical shapes). She had no one to do her allotted work on the river bund nor had she the money to hire a person to do it. She was therefore greatly worried and cried, ‘Ishwara! What shall I do?’ Seeing her helplessness, Ishwara came there in the guise of a cooly with a spade on his shoulder and called out, ‘Granny, granny, do you want a cooly?’ ‘Yes’, she said, ‘but I do not have even a paisa in my hand to pay you.

What to do?’ He said, ‘I do not want any money and would be satisfied if you give me some portion of pittu to eat. I shall then do the allotted work on the river bund.’ “Pleased with that offer, she began making pittu but they did not come out in full shape but were broken. Surprised at this she gave all the bits to the cooly. He ate as many of them as he could and went away saying that he would attend to the bund-raising work. Surprisingly, the dough with the old woman remained intact even though she had prepared and given bits of the pittu to the cooly. The cooly went to the workspot, but instead of doing the work lay down there idly standing in the way of others doing their work.

“The king went round to inspect the progress of the work and found that the portion allotted to Ammaiyar remained unattended to. On enquiry, his servants told him all about the pranks of that cooly. The king got infuriated, called the cooly and said, ‘Instead of doing the allotted work, you are lying down and singing.’ So saying he hit the cooly on the back with a cane he had in his hand. The hit recoiled not only on the king himself but on all living beings there and all of them suffered the pain on that account. The king immediately realised that the person hit by him was Parameswara himself in the guise of a cooly. The king stood aghast. Parameswara vanished and soon a voice from the sky said, ‘Oh king! Manikkavachakar is my beloved devotee.

I myself did all this to show you his greatness. Seek his protection’. Soon after hearing that voice, the king went to see Manikkavachakar, and on the way he stepped into the house of Pittuvani to see her. By that time she had already got into a vimanam (a heavenly car moving through the skies) and was on her way to Kailasa. The king was greatly surprised and saluted her and from there he went straight to Manikkavachakar and fell at his feet. Manikkavachakar lifted him with great respect, and enquired of his welfare. The king entreatingly said, ‘Please forgive me and rule this kingdom yourself.’ Manikkavachakar, looking at the king, said with kindness, ‘Appah! (a term of endearment) As I have already agreed to serve the Lord, I cannot be bothered with the problems of ruling a kingdom. Please do not mistake me. Rule the kingdom yourself looking after the welfare of the people. Henceforth you will have nothing to worry about.’ So saying, smilingly, he put on the dress of a sannyasin, went about visiting holy places singing the praise of Siva. There are several stories like this.” NAGAMMA: “When was the Tiruvachakam written?” BHAGAVAN: “No. He never wrote. He merely went about singing his songs.” NAGAMMA: “Then how did Tiruvachakam get to be written?” BHAGAVAN: Oh that! He was going from one place to another until he came to Chidambaram. While witnessing Nataraja’s dance he started singing heart-melting songs and stayed in that place itself. Then one day Nataraja, with a view to making people know the greatness of Manikkavachakar and to bless those people with such an excellent collection of hymns, went to the house of Manikkavachakar in the night, in the guise of a brahmin. He was received cordially and when asked for the purpose of the visit, the Lord smilingly and with great familiarity asked, ‘It seems you have been singing Hymns during your visit to the sacred places of pilgrimage and that you are doing it here also. May I hear them? I have been thinking of coming and listening to you for a very long time but could not find the required leisure. That is why I have come here at night.

I suppose you don’t mind. Can you sing? Do you remember them all?’ ‘There is no need to worry about sleep. I shall sing all the songs I remember. Please listen’. So saying Manikkavachakar began singing in ecstasy. The Lord in the guise of a brahmin, sat down there writing the songs on palm leaves. As Manikkavachakar was in ecstasy he hardly noticed the brahmin who was taking down the songs. Singing on and on, he completely forgot himself in the thought of God and ultimately became silent. The old brahmin quietly disappeared.

“At daybreak, the dikshitar (priest) came to the Nataraja Temple as usual to perform the morning puja and as he opened the doors he found in front of the Nataraja idol a palm-leaf book on the doorstep. When the book was opened and scrutinised there were in it not only the words ‘Tiruvachakam’, it was also written that the book was written as it was dictated by Manikkavachakar. It was signed below ‘Tiruchitrambalam’, i.e., Chidambaram. The stamp of Sri Nataraja also was there below the signature. Thereupon, all the temple priests gathered in great surprise and sent word to Manikkavachakar, showed him the Tiruvachakam, and the signature of Nataraja and asked him to tell them about the genesis of the hymns.

“Manikkavachakar did not say anything but asked them to accompany him, went to the temple of Nataraja and standing opposite to the Lord said, ‘Sirs, the Lord in front of us is the only answer to your question. He is the answer.’ After having said that, he merged into the Lord.” As he narrated the story, Bhagavan’s voice got choked.

Unable to speak any more he remained in ecstatic silence.

Letter 145

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20th September, 1947
Four or five days ago, some devotees who were going for Giripradakshina, asked me to accompany them and so I went with them after obtaining Bhagavan’s permission. By the time we reached Adi Annamalai, it began to rain and so we took shelter in a small mutt by the side of the road. I asked a sadhu who was there, “Whose is this mutt?” “It is Manivachakar’s” he said. When I enquired about the circumstances under which the mutt happened to be built, he narrated all sorts of stories. I could not understand what exactly he said; even then I listened to him patiently, without further questioning, in the hope of getting the required information from Bhagavan himself later.

Yesterday I waited for an opportunity to enquire about this but Bhagavan was busy reading the story about Sundaramurti in the Kaleswara Mahatmyam. This Kaleswara Mahatmyam is a part of Brahmavaivartha Puranam. He read out to us the portion relating to Sundaramurti going to the Kaleswara Temple but before entering it, Sundaramurti went for a bath to the Gaja Pushkarini Tank which was opposite.

When he came out of the tank after his bath, he found that the temple had vanished. So Sundaramurti sang a few songs, expressing his regret at going to the tank for a bath and not to the temple first for the Lord’s darshan. Thereafter the temple reappeared. After reading some more portions of the story Bhagavan remarked, “Everything appeared to him first as a large expanse of water and nothing else and later as Jyothi (divine light).” A devotee enquired, “It is said that Arunachalam is also a form of Jyoti.” “Yes. It is so. For the human eye it is only a form of earth and stone but its real form is Jyoti,” said Bhagavan. Taking advantage of this opportunity I asked, “There is a mutt in Adi Annamalai in the name of Manikkavachakar. What could be the reason for its being named like that?” “Oh! That one. It seems he came to Tiruvannamalai also in his pilgrimage. He then stood at that particular place and addressing Arunagiri, sang the songs ‘Tiruvempavai’ and ‘Ammanai’. Hence the mutt got established there, in commemoration. You must have heard of the ‘Tiruvempavai’ songs; they are twenty in number.

Andal sang thirty songs in praise of Lord Krishna and in the same strain Muruganar also has sung songs in praise of me,” said Bhagavan.

DEVOTEE: “How did this Mountain get the name Annamalai?” BHAGAVAN: “That which is not reachable by Brahma or Vishnu is Annamalai. That means it is the embodiment of the Jyoti which is beyond word or mind. Anna means unreachable. That is the cause of the name.” DEVOTEE: “But the mountain has a form and a shape.” BHAGAVAN: “When Brahma and Vishnu saw it, it appeared as a pillar of Light enveloping the whole universe.

It was only later that it appeared like a mountain. This is Ishwara’s sthula sariram (gross body). Jyothi itself is the sukshma sariram (subtle body). That which is beyond all these bodies is the Reality. Subtle means the Tejas (illumination which fills the whole universe).” DEVOTEE: “Was it the same thing even to Sundaramurti?” BHAGAVAN: “Yes. At first it appeared as Jalamayam (expanse of water), subsequently as Tejas (Lustre all round) and finally to the human eye it appeared as a temple.

Mahatmas always look with divine eyes. Hence everything appears to them as Pure Light or Brahman.” NAGAMMA: “Bhagavan has, I believe, written a padyam (verse) about the birth or appearance of the Arunachala Linga, is it true?” BHAGAVAN: “Yes. I wrote it on a Sivarathri day in the year Vikrama, when somebody asked for it. Perhaps I have written it in Telugu also.” NAGAMMA: “Yes. It is stated in that Telugu padyam that the linga appeared in dhanurmasam on the day of the Arudra star; that Vishnu and the devas worshipped Siva who gave divine vision to them; that was in the month of Kumbha.

What is the original story? And what was the occasion for the festivities connected with the Krithika star?” BHAGAVAN: “Oh! That! Brahma and Vishnu were quarrelling as to who was greater. In the month of Kartika, on the day of the Krithika star, a luminous pillar appeared between them. To mark that event, a festival of lights is celebrated on that day every year. You see, both Brahma and Vishnu got tired of their fruitless search for the beginning and the end of the pillar. Depressed by defeat they met at a common place and prayed to God Almighty when Lord Siva appeared before them in the pillar and graciously blessed them. At their request, He agreed to be within their reach for worship in the shape of the mountain and the Linga (in the temple). He also told them that if they worshipped Him thus, He would after a time, come out in the shape of Rudra and would help them in all possible ways. Then He disappeared. From then onwards, in the month of Dhanus, on the day of the Arudra star, Brahma and Vishnu began to worship the Linga that had manifested itself according to the promise of Ishwara. As they continued the worship from year to year in the second half of the month of Kumbha on the thirteenth/fourteenth day at midnight, Siva manifested Himself from that Linga and was then worshipped by Hari and the devas. Hence that day is called Sivarathri as stated in the Linga Puranam, and Siva Puranam. It seems it is only from then onwards the worship of the Linga commenced. It is emphatically stated in Skanda Purana that it is only in Arunachala that the first Linga manifested itself.”

Letter 143

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14th September, 1947
Last month, Niranjananandaswami sent a bull, born and bred in the Ashram to the Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, as a present. People there named it Basava, decorated it nicely and took a photo of it along with Sri Sambasiva Iyer who had accompanied it. Sambasiva Iyer returned with a copy of the photo besides an old fashioned silk-fringed shawl, some vibhuti, kumkum and prasad 1 given to him by the temple authorities.

Due to the great crowd of visitors since August 15th, Bhagavan has been spending the days out in the Jubilee Hall.

Sambasiva Iyer came into Bhagavan’s presence with the shawl, vibhuti, etc., on a large plate. The brahmins who had accompanied him recited a mantra while all of us prostrated before Bhagavan, then rose. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, “Our bull has been sent to the Meenakshi Temple, did you know?” “Yes, I knew,” I said. “On the day it was going, I saw it decorated with turmeric, 2 kumkum, etc. and came to know of the purpose when I asked the cattle-keeper.” Holding the plate reverentially and smearing the vibhuti and kumkum on his forehead, Bhagavan said, “See, this is Meenakshi’s gift.” And his voice quivered as he said it.

Sambasiva Iyer spread the shawl over Bhagavan’s feet, and when Bhagavan, deeply moved, removed it with evident feeling of reverence, the attendants took it and spread it over the back of the sofa. Adjusting the shawl properly with his hands, Bhagavan, looking towards us, said, “Mother 1 Vibhuti: sacred ash. Kumkum: vermilion powder. Prasad: any flower or food consecrated by being offered to the Deity.

2 Turmeric: a bright yellow powder of the turmeric root.

Meenakshi has sent this. It is Mother’s gift.” And, choked with emotion, he was unable to say more and became silent.

His eyes were full of tears of joy and his body became motionless. Seeing this, it seemed to me that Nature herself had become silent. When, as a boy, Bhagavan was in Tiruchuli and someone had been angry with him, he had gone to the temple and wept, sitting behind the image of Sahayamba.

He alone knows how the Mother consoled him and what hopes she gave him.

Three years ago, the Ashram doctor said that hand- pounded rice would be good for Bhagavan’s health.

Thereupon the Ashramites approached Bhagavan with a request to take such rice, which would be specially cooked for him. When Bhagavan asked them whether the same rice would be served to all, they said that it would not be possible, as the supply of such rice was limited. Bhagavan therefore would not agree to having it however much they tried to persuade him. At last they said that they would use the hand- pounded rice for the daily offerings to the deity in the temple, for which rice is usually cooked separately and they requested Bhagavan to partake of that rice. “If that is so, it is all right.

I will take it because it is Mother’s prasadam,” said Bhagavan.

And from that day onwards, they have been cooking hand- pounded rice separately and, after offering it to the goddess in the temple, have been serving it to Bhagavan, giving what was left over to all others in his company.

Last summer, Ramaswami Iyer’s son got married and for the occasion there was a feast here. That day, Iyer noticed that there was white rice on the leaves of all, whereas the rice on Bhagavan’s leaf was reddish, and he enquired the reason. Bhagavan smiling, said, “This is Mother’s prasadam.

What is wrong with it? It is cooked specially as an offering to Mother.” He then related the above incident. He once again said, “This is Mother’s gift; I have accepted it only because of that.” Is this not a great lesson to those who say that they have given up visiting temples and such things?

Letter 142

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13th September, 1947
Recently, while coming from Bangalore, Arvind Bose brought some costly pencils and gave them to Bhagavan.

After answering the usual enquiries about his welfare he went away to his compound, named “Mahasthan”.

After he left, Bhagavan examined the pencils closely, wrote with them, appreciated their good quality, and handed them to Krishnaswami, saying, “Please keep these carefully.

Our own pencil must be somewhere. Please see where it is and let me have it.” Krishnaswami carefully put away those pencils, opened a wooden box which was on the table nearby, and, after searching for a while, found a pencil and gave it to Bhagavan.

Turning it this way and that, and examining it, Bhagavan said, “Why this one? This is from Devaraja Mudaliar. Our own pencil must be there. Give it to me and keep this one also safely somewhere.” Krishnaswamy searched everywhere but could not find it. “See if it is in the hall,” said Bhagavan. Someone went there and came back saying it was not there. “Oh! What a great pity! That is our own pencil, you see. Search properly and find it,” said Bhagavan. Devaraja Mudaliar, who was there, said, “Why worry, Bhagavan? Are not all these pencils your own?” Bhagavan said with a smile, “That is not it. You gave this one; Bose brought the other ones. If we are not sufficiently careful, somebody may take them away. You know, Swami is the common property of all people. If your pencil was lost you might feel aggrieved, for you bought it, spending a good amount of money, and gave it to me. If it is our own pencil it does not matter where it is kept. It costs half-an-anna and even that was not purchased. Some one brought it and gave it, saying it had been found somewhere. So, it is our own. As regards the others, we are answerable to the donors. No one will question us about this one and that is why I am asking for it. The others are for the use of important people. Why do we want such pencils? Have we to pass any examination or have we to work in an office? For our writing work, that pencil is enough.” So saying, he had a search made for it and ultimately got it.

Sometime back, a similar incident happened. Some rich people brought a silver cup, saucer and spoon and placing them reverentially before him, said, “Bhagavan, please use these when you take any liquid food.” Bhagavan examined the things and passed them on to his attendants. As the attendants were placing them in the bureau in the hall, he objected and said, “Why there? Let them be kept in the office itself.” “They were given for Bhagavan’s use, were they not?” said a devotee. “Yes,” replied Bhagavan, “but those are things used by rich people. What use can they be to us? If required, we have our own cups and spoons. We can use them — why these?” So saying, Bhagavan told his attendant, “Look, from tomorrow we will use our own cups.

Take them out.” A devotee asked, “What are those cups, Bhagavan?” “Oh! Those cups are made of coconut shells, smoothed and preserved. They are our cups and spoons.

They are our own. If we use them the purpose is served.

Please keep the silver articles carefully elsewhere,” said Bhagavan. “Are not those silver articles Bhagavan’s own?” asked the devotee. Bhagavan said with a laugh, “Yes, they are. But tell me, why all this ostentation for us? They are costly. Should we be careless, some one might steal them.

So they must be guarded. Is that the job for Swami? Not only that. Somebody might think, ‘after all, he is a sannyasiand so will he not give them away if asked?’ and then ask for them. It is not possible to say ‘No’. Yet, if they are given away, those who presented them might resent it, as they gave the articles for Swami’s use only. Why all that trouble? If we use our own cups it does not matter how we use them or what we do with them.” So saying, he sent away the silver articles, had his own cups taken out and shown to all present.

About the same time, a devotee brought a nice walking stick with a silver handle, and presented it to Bhagavan.

Turning it this side and that, and examining it, Bhagavan remarked to the devotee, “Good. It is very nice. Please use it carefully.” “But it is not for my use,” he said. “I have brought it thinking that Bhagavan would use it.” “What an idea!” exclaimed Bhagavan. “A nice walking stick with a silver handle should be used only by officials like you. Why for me? Look, I have my own walking stick. That is enough,” concluded Bhagavan.

“When that one is worn out, you could use this one, couldn’t you?” asked another devotee. “Why these costly things for me? If a bit of wood were chiselled, a walking stick could be made out of it in an instant. While I was on the hill, I used to chisel a lot of wood into walking sticks, smooth them and preserve them. Not even a paisa was spent on that account. Several people took away those walking sticks. They were our own. Why all this ostentation for us? Those cheap walking sticks will do for us.” So saying, Bhagavan gave the stick back to the devotee.

As a rule, Bhagavan does not use costly things. He likes things which do not cost even a paisa.

Letter 141

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12th September, 1947
A devotee who came here some time back and had been listening to the various discussions in Bhagavan’s presence, approached Bhagavan this afternoon and respectfully asked, “Swami, it is said that Ishwara who is the reflection of the soul and appears as the thinking mind, has become jiva, the personal soul, which is the reflection of the thinking faculty. What is the meaning of this?”

Bhagavan answered,
“The reflected consciousness of the Self (Atman) is called Ishwara, and Ishwara reflected through the thinking faculty is called the jiva. That is all.”

The devotee: “That is all right, Swami, but what then is chidabhasa?”

Bhagavan: “Chidabhasa is the feeling of the Self which appears as the shining of the mind. The one becomes three, the three becomes five and the five becomes many; that is, the pure Self (satva), which appears to be one, becomes through contact, three (satva, rajas and tamas) and with those three, the five elements come into existence, and with those five, the whole Universe.

It is this which creates the illusion that the body is the Self. In terms of the sky (akasa), it is explained as being divided into three categories, as reflected in the soul: the boundless world of pure consciousness, the boundless world of mental consciousness and the boundless world of matter (chidakasa, chittakasa and bhutakasa). When Mind (chitta), is divided into its three aspects, namely mind, intuition and ‘Maker of the I’ (manas, buddhi and ahankara), it is called the inner instrument, or ‘antahkarana’.

Karanam means upakaranam. Legs, hands and other organs of the body are called ‘bahyakarana’, or outer instruments, while the senses (indriyas) which work inside the body are antahkaranas or inner instruments. That feeling of the Self, or shining mind, which works with these inner instruments, is said to be the personal soul, or jiva. When the mental consciousness, which is a reflection of the tangible aspect of pure consciousness, sees the world of matter, it is called mental world (mano akasa), but when it sees the tangible aspect of pure consciousness, it is called total consciousness (chinmaya). That is why it is said, ‘The mind is the cause of both bondage and liberation for man (mana eva manushyanam karanam bandha mokshayoh)’. That mind creates many illusions.”

The questioner: “How will that illusion disappear?”

Bhagavan: “If the secret truth mentioned above is ascertained by Self-enquiry, the multiplicity resolves itself into five, the five into three, and the three into one. Suppose you have a headache and you get rid of it by taking some medicine. You then remain what you were originally. The headache is like the illusion that the body is the Self; it disappears when the medicine called Self-enquiry is administered.”

The questioner: “Is it possible for all people to hold on to that path of Self-enquiry?”

Bhagavan: “It is true that it is only possible for mature minds, not for immature ones. For the latter, repetition of a prayer or holy name under one’s breath (japa), worship of images, breath-control (pranayama), visualising a pillar of light (Jyotishtoma) and similar yogic and spiritual and religious practices have been prescribed. By those practices, people become mature and will then realize the Self through the path of Self-enquiry. To remove the illusion of immature minds in regard to this world, they have to be told that they are different from the body. It is enough if you say, you are everything, all-pervading. The Ancients say that those with immature minds should be told that they must know the transcendent Seer through enquiry into the five elements and reject them by the process of repeating, ‘Not this, not this (Neti, neti)’. After saying this, they point out that just as gold ornaments are not different from gold, so the elements are your own Self. Hence it must be said that this world is real.

“People note the differences between the various types of ornaments, but does the goldsmith recognise the difference? He only looks into the fineness of the gold. In the same way, for the Realized Soul, the Jnani, everything appears to be his own Self. Sankara’s method was also the same. Without understanding this, some people call him a nihilist (mithyavadi), that is, one who argues that the world is unreal. It is all meaningless talk. Just as when you see a stone carved into the form of a dog and you realise that it is only a stone, there is no dog for you; so also, if you see it only as a dog without realizing that it is a stone, there is no stone for you. If you are existent, everything is existent; if you are non-existent, there is nothing existent in this world. If it is said that there is no dog, but there is a stone, it does not mean that the dog ran away on your seeing the stone.

There is a story about this. A man wanted to see the King’s palace, and so started out. Now, there were two dogs carved out of stone, one on either side of the palace gateway. The man standing at a distance took them for real dogs and was afraid of going near them. A saint passing along that way noticed this and took the man along with him, saying, ‘Sir, there is no need to be afraid.’ When the man got near enough to see clearly, he saw that there were no dogs, and what he had thought to be dogs, were just stone carvings.

“In the same way, if you see the world, the Self will not be visible; if you see the Self, the world will not be visible. A good Teacher (Guru) is like that saint. A Realized Soul who knows the truth is aware of the fact that he is not the body.

But there is one thing more. Unless one looks upon death as a thing that is very near and might happen at any moment, one will not be aware of the Self. This means that the ego must die, must vanish, along with the inherent vasanas. If the ego vanishes thus, the Self will shine as the luminous Self. Such people will be on a high spiritual plane, free from births and deaths.” With that Bhagavan stopped his discourse.

Letter 140

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11th September, 1947
Yesterday, a sadhu came and sat in the Hall. He seemed anxious to speak to Bhagavan, but hesitant. After some time, he approached him and said, “Swami, it is said that the Self (atma), is all-pervading. Does that mean that it is in a dead body also?”

“Oho! So that is what you want to know?” rejoined Bhagavan. “And did the question occur to the dead body or to you?”
“To me,” said the sadhu.

“When you are asleep do you question whether you exist or not? It is only after you wake up that you say you exist. In the dream state also, the Self exists.

There is really no such thing as a dead or a living body. That which does not move we call dead, and that which has movement we call alive. In dreams you see any number of bodies, living and dead, and they have no existence when you wake up. In the same way this whole world, animate and inanimate, is non-existent. Death means the dissolution of the ego, and birth means the rebirth of the ego. There are births and deaths, but they are of the ego; not of you.

You exist whether the sense of ego is there or not. You are its source, but not the ego-sense. Deliverance (mukti) means finding the origin of these births and deaths and demolishing the ego-sense to its very roots. That is deliverance. It means death with full awareness. If one dies thus, one is born again simultaneously and in the same place with Aham sphurana known as ‘Aham, Aham (I, I)’. One who is born thus, has no doubts whatsoever.”

Yesterday evening, after the chanting of the Vedas, a young European who came four or five days ago, asked Bhagavan a number of questions. Bhagavan, as usual, countered him with the question, “Who are you? Who is asking these questions?”

Unable to get any other elucidation, the young man as a last resort asked Bhagavan which verse of the Gita he liked the most, and Bhagavan replied that he liked them all. When the young man still persisted in asking which was the most important verse, Bhagavan told him, Chapter X, Verse 20 which runs:

“I am the Self, Oh Gudakesa [1] , seated in the heart of all beings. I am the beginning and the middle and the end of all beings.”

The questioner was pleased and satisfied and on taking leave, said, “Swami, this unreal self is obliged to travel owing to the exigencies of work. I pray that you may be pleased to recommend that this unreal self be merged into the real Self.”

Bhagavan, smiling, replied, “Such a recommendation might be necessary where there are a number of different selves — one to ask for a recommendation, one to recommend and one to hear the recommendation. But there are not so many selves. There is only one Self. Everything is in the one Self.”

[1 - Gudakesa: Another name of Arjuna.]

Letter 139

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10th September, 1947
At a quarter to ten this morning, just as Bhagavan was getting up to go for his usual short mid-morning walk, an Andhra young man approached the couch and said, “Swami, I have come here because I want to perform austerities (tapas) and don’t know which would be the proper place for it. I will go wherever you direct me.” Bhagavan did not answer. He was bending down, rubbing his legs and knees, as he often does before beginning to walk, on account of his rheumatic trouble, and was smiling quietly to himself. We, of course, eagerly waited to hear what he would say. A moment later he took the staff that he uses to steady himself while walking, and looking at the young man, said, “How can I tell you where to go for performing tapas? It is best to stay where you are.” And with a smile he went out.

The young man was confused. “What is the meaning of this?” he exclaimed. “Being an elderly person, I thought he would tell me of some holy place where I could stay, but instead of that he tells me to stay where I am. I am now near this couch. Does that mean that I should stay here near the couch? Was it to receive such a reply that I approached him? Is this a matter for jokes?” One of the devotees took him out of the hall and explained, “Even when Bhagavan says something in a lighter vein there is always some deep meaning in it. Where the feeling ‘I’ arises is one’s Self. Tapas means knowing where the Self is and abiding in it. For knowing that, one has to know who one is; and when one realises one’s Self what does it matter where one stays? This is what he meant.” He thus pacified the young man and sent him away.

Similarly, someone asked yesterday, “Swami, how can we find the Self (Atma)?” “You are in the Self; so how can there be any difficulty in finding it?” Bhagavan replied.

“You say that I am in the Self, but where exactly is that Self?” the questioner persisted.

“If you abide in the heart and search patiently you will find it,” was the reply.

The questioner still seemed unsatisfied, and made the rather curious observation that there was no room in his heart for him to stay in it.

Bhagavan turned to one of the devotees sitting there and said smiling, “Look how he worries about where the Self is! What can I tell him? What Is, is the Self. It is all-pervading.

When I tell him that it is called ‘Heart’ he says there is no room in it for him to stay. What can I do? To say that there is no room in the heart after filling it with unnecessary vasanas [*] is like grumbling that there is no room to sit down in a house as big as Sri Lanka. If all the junk is thrown out, won’t there be room? The body itself is junk. These people are like a man who fills all the rooms of his house chokeful with unnecessary junk and then complains that there is no room for keeping his body in it. In the same way they fill the mind with all sorts of impressions and then say there is no room for the Self in it.

If all the false ideas and impressions are swept away and thrown out what remains is a feeling of plenty and that is the Self itself. Then there will be no such thing as a separate ‘I’; it will be a state of egolessness. Where then is the question of a room or an occupant of the room? Instead of seeking the Self people say, ‘no room! no room!’, just like shutting your eyes and saying there is ‘no sun! no sun!’. What can one do under such circumstances?”

[* vasana: The impression unconsciously left on the mind by past good or bad actions, which therefore produces pleasure or pain.]

Letter 138

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8th September, 1947
This morning, a European who was sitting in front of Bhagavan said through an interpreter: “It is stated in the Mandukyopanishad that, unless samadhi, i.e., the 8th and last stage of yoga, is also experienced, there can be no liberation (moksha) however much meditation (dhyana) or austerities (tapas) are performed. Is that so?” Bhagavan: “Rightly understood, they are the same. It makes no difference whether you call it meditation or austerities or absorption, or anything else. That which is steady, continuous like the flow of oil, is austerity, meditation and absorption. To be one’s own Self is samadhi.” Questioner: “But it is said in the Mandukyopanishad that samadhi must necessarily be experienced before attaining liberation.” Bhagavan: “And who says that it is not so? It is stated not only in the Mandukyopanishad but in all the ancient books.

But it is true samadhi only if you know your Self. What is the use of sitting still for some time like a lifeless object? Suppose you get a boil on your hand and have it operated under chloroform; you don’t feel any pain at the time, but does that mean that you were in samadhi? It is the same with this too. One has to know what samadhi is. And how can you know it without knowing your Self? If the Self is known, samadhi will be known automatically.” Meanwhile, a Tamil devotee opened the Tiruvachakam and began singing the “Songs on Pursuit”. Towards the end comes the passage, “Oh, Ishwara, * You are trying to flee, * Ishwara signifies the personal God.

but I am holding You fast. So where can You go and how can You escape from me?” Bhagavan commented with a smile: “So it seems that He is trying to flee and they are holding Him fast! Where could He flee to? Where is He not present? Who is He? All this is nothing but a pageant. There is another sequence of ten songs in the same book, one which goes, ‘O my Lord! You have made my mind Your abode. You have given Yourself upto me and in return have taken me into You. Lord, which of us is the cleverer? If You have given Yourself up to me, I enjoy endless bliss, but of what use am I to You, even though You have made of my body Your Temple out of Your boundless mercy to me? What is it I could do for you in return? I have nothing now that I could call my own.’ This means that there is no such thing as ‘I’. See the beauty of it! Where there is no such thing as ‘I’, who is the doer and what is it that is done, whether it be devotion or Self-enquiry or samadhi?”

Letter 137

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6th September, 1947
Last month, during my sister-in-law’s stay here, the proofs of the Telugu version of the ‘Vichara Mani Mala’ (Self-enquiry) were received. In the afternoon Bhagavan corrected them and passed them on to me. On reading them, my sister-in- law asked me the meaning of swapnatyanta nivritti. I tried to explain, but as I was not sure myself, I could not satisfy her fully. On noticing this, Bhagavan asked, “What is the matter? Is there a mistake?” I replied, “No. She is asking the meaning of swapnatyanta nivritti.”

Bhagavan said kindly, “It means absolute, dreamless sleep.”
I asked, “Would it be true to say that a Jnani has no dreams?”
Bhagavan: “He has no dream-state.”
My sister-in-law was still not satisfied, but as people began to talk about other things, we had to leave the matter there. Only at night she said, “In the Vasishtam [1] it is stated that a Realized Soul appears to perform actions, but they do not affect him at all. We ought to have asked Bhagavan the real meaning of this.”

On going to the Ashram next morning, it so happened that Bhagavan was just then explaining the very point to Sundaresa Iyer. Eagerly availing herself of the opportunity, my sister-in-law again asked, “Bhagavan has stated that Swapnatyanta nivritti means absolute, dreamless sleep. Does it mean that a Jnani does not have dreams at all?”

[1- Yoga Vasishtam is a book on yoga by Vasishta Maharshi.]

Bhagavan: “It is not only the dream-state, but all three states are unreal to the Jnani. The real state of the Jnani is where none of these three states exists.”
I asked, “Is not the waking state also equivalent to a dream?”
Bhagavan: “Yes, whereas a dream lasts for a short time, the waking state lasts longer. That is the only difference.”
I: “Then deep sleep is also a dream?”
Bhagavan: “No, deep sleep is an actuality. How can it be a dream when there is no mental activity? However, since it is a state of mental vacuity, it is nescience (avidya) and must therefore be rejected.” I persisted, “But is not deep sleep also said to be a dream state?”

Bhagavan: “Some may have said so for the sake of terminology, but really there is nothing separate. Short or long duration applies only to the dream and waking states.
Someone may say: ‘we have lived so long and these houses and belongings are so clearly evident to us that it surely can’t be all a dream’. But we have to remember that even dreams seem long while they last. It is only when you wake up that you realize that they only lasted a short time. In the same way, when one attains Realization (jnana), this life is seen to be momentary. Dreamless sleep means nescience; therefore it is to be rejected in favour of the state of pure Awareness.”

My sister-in-law then interposed, “It is said that the bliss that occurs in deep sleep is experienced in the state of samadhi [2] as well, but how is that to be reconciled with the statement that deep sleep is a state of nescience?”

[2- Samadhi means perfect absorption of thought in the one object of meditation, i.e., the Supreme Spirit (the 8th and last stage of yoga).]

Bhagavan: “That is why deep sleep has also to be rejected. It is true that there is bliss in deep sleep, but one is not aware of it. One only knows about it afterwards when one wakes up and says that one has slept well. Samadhi means experiencing this bliss while remaining awake.”
I: “So it means waking, or conscious sleep?”
Bhagavan: “Yes, that’s it.”

My sister-in-law then brought up the other cognate question that had worried her: “It is said by Vasishta that a Realized Soul seems to others to be engaged in various activities, but he is not affected by them at all. Is it because of their different outlook that it seems so to others, or is he really unaffected?”
Bhagavan: “He is really unaffected.”
My sister-in-law: “People speak of favourable visions, both in dream and while awake; what are they”?
Bhagavan: “To a Realized Soul they all seem the same.” However she persisted, “It is stated in Bhagavan’s biography that Ganapati Muni had a vision of Bhagavan when he was at Tiruvottiyur and Bhagavan was at Tiruvannamalai, and that, at the very same time, Bhagavan had a feeling of accepting homage. How can such things be explained?”
Bhagavan answered cryptically, “I have already stated that such things are what are known as divine visions.” He was then silent, indicating that he was not willing to continue the talk any further.

Letter 136

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3rd September, 1947
I went to Bhagavan’s sannidhi (presence) at 3 o’clock this afternoon and joined the group of people around him in their discussions. Bhagavan casually remarked that Adi Sankara wrote “Dakshinamurthy Stotram” [1] in three parts and said, “Sri Sankara felt like singing in praise of Sri Dakshinamurthy but then, Dakshinamurthy being the embodiment of silence, the problem was how to describe silence.

[1-  Dakshinamurthy is Siva incarnate as a youth, teaching in Silence. Bhagavan has been identified with Dakshinamurthy.]

He therefore analysed the three attributes of silence, namely, Srishti (creation) Sthithi (preservation) and Laya (dissolution) and thus offered his salutations to Dakshinamurthy. Dakshinamurthy is the embodiment of these three attributes which do not have any discernible characteristics or distinguishing marks. How else can silence be eulogised?” Taking up the thread of the conversation a devotee said, “Dandapani Swami told us several years back that on a Mahasivarathri [2]  day, devotees gathered around Bhagavan saying, ‘Bhagavan must explain to us today the meaning of “Dakshinamurthy Ashtakam” (Eight Slokas in Praise of Dakshinamurthy). Bhagavan however, sat in silence, smiling.

After waiting for some time the devotees went away feeling that, by his continued silence, Bhagavan had taught them that silence alone was the true meaning of those slokas. Is that a fact?” 
Bhagavan (with a smile): “Yes. That is true.” 
I (with some surprise): “So that means Bhagavan gave a silent commentary?” 
Bhagavan: “Yes. It was a silent commentary.” 
Another devotee: “Mouna means abiding in the Self, isn’t it?” 
Bhagavan: “Yes. That is so. Without abiding in the Self, how could it be mouna (silence)?” 
Devotee: “That is just what I am asking. Would it be mouna if one were to completely refrain from speech without at the same time having an awareness of the Self and abiding therein?” 

[2-  Great Night of Siva (in February each year).]

Bhagavan: “How could real mouna be achieved? Some people say that they are observing mouna by keeping their mouths shut but at the same time they go on writing something or other on bits of paper or on a slate. Is not that another form of activity of the mind?” 

Another devotee: “Is there then no benefit at all in refraining from speech?” 
Bhagavan: “A person may refrain from speech in order to avoid the obstacles of the outer world, but he should not consider that to be an end in itself. True Silence is really endless speech; there is no such thing as attaining it because it is always present. All you have to do is to remove the worldly cobwebs that enshroud it; there is no question of attaining it.” 

While we were thus engaged in discussions, someone said that a broadcasting company was thinking of recording Bhagavan’s voice. Bhagavan laughed and said, “Oho! You don’t say so! But my voice is Silence, isn’t it? How can they record Silence? That which Is, is Silence. Who could record it?” The devotees sat quiet, exchanging glances and there was absolute silence in the hall. Bhagavan, the embodiment of Dakshinamurthy, sat in the Attitude of Silence (mouna mudra) facing southwards.[3]  

That living image, his body, was radiant with the Light of the Self. Today is indeed a memorable day.

[3-  One meaning of the name Dakshinamurthy is ‘The Southward facing’. The Guru (teacher) is the spiritual North Pole and, therefore, traditionally faces south.]

Letter 135

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19th July, 1947
Yesterday, two pandits came from Kumbakonam. This morning at 9 o’clock, they approached Bhagavan and said, “Swami, we take leave of you. We pray that you may be pleased to bless us that our mind may merge or dissolve itself in shanti.”

Bhagavan nodded his head as usual. After they had left, he said, looking at Ramachandra Iyer, “shanthi is the original state. If what comes from outside is rejected what remains is peace. What then is there to dissolve or merge? Only that which comes from outside has to be thrown out. If people whose minds are mature are simply told that the swarupa itself is shanti, they get jnana. It is only for immature minds that sravana and manana are prescribed, but for mature minds there is no need of them. If people at a distance enquire how to go to Ramana Maharshi, we have to tell them to get into such and such a train or take such and such a path, but if they come to Tiruvannamalai, reach Ramanasramam and step into the hall, it is enough if only they are told, here is that person. There is no need for them to move any farther.”

Sravana and manana mean only those described in Vedanta, don’t they?” asked some one. “Yes,” Bhagavan replied, “but one thing, not only are there outward sravana and manana but there are also inward sravana and manana.

They must occur to a person as a result of the maturity of his mind. Those that are able to do that antara sravana (hearing inwardly) do not have any doubts.” Whenever any one asked what those antara sravanas are, he used to say, “Antara sravana means the knowledge of that Atma which is in the cave of the heart always illuminated with the feeling ‘aham, aham’ (‘I, I’), and to get that feeling to be in one’s heart is manana, and to remain in one’s self is nididhyasa.”

In this connection, it is worth while remembering the sloka written by Bhagavan bearing on this subject. In that sloka mention is made not only to Atma sphurana but also how to secure it. Securing means only remaining in one’s own self.

Brahman is glowing lustrously in the middle of the cave of the Heart in the shape of the Self, always proclaiming ‘I am, I am’. Become an Atmanishta, a Self-realised person, either by making the mind absorbed in the search of the Self or by making the mind drown itself through control of the breath.

Letter 134

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20th July, 1947
Bhagavan used to write slokas, padyas and prose on small bits of paper, whenever he felt like it or whenever anyone requested him to write. Quite a number of them have been lost but whatever were available we gathered and kept them carefully. I wanted to stitch a small book of white paper and paste them all in. I mentioned this to Bhagavan now and then but he always said, “Why bother?” Yesterday afternoon, I was bent upon pasting them and so when I requested him, he said, “Why? If all of them are in one place, someone or other will take it away finding that it contains all Swami’s writings. We can’t say anything. Swami is the common property of all. It is better to leave them separate.” I then understood the real reason why Bhagavan was unwilling and so gave up my attempt.

In the meantime, a fussy young man who had recently come, asked, “Swami, it seems a Jnani has jnanadrishti (supernatural vision) besides bahyadrishti (external vision). Will you please do me the favour of giving me that jnanadrishti? Or will you tell me where there is a person who could give it to me?” Bhagavan replied, “That jnanadrishti must be acquired by one’s own effort and is not something that anybody can give.” That devotee said, “It is said that the Guru himself can give it if he so pleases.” Bhagavan replied, “The Guru can only say ‘if you follow this path, you will gain jnanadrishti’. But who follows it? A Guru who is a Jnani is only a guide but the walking (i.e. the sadhana) must be done by the sishyas themselves.” The young man felt disappointed and went away.

A little later, a devotee’s child of about five or six years of age, residing in Ramana Nagar, brought two raw fruits from their garden and gave them to Bhagavan. She used to bring sweets and fruits now and then and give them to Bhagavan. On all such occasions, Bhagavan used to say, “Why all this?” But he ate them all the same. Yesterday, he gave them back without eating and said, “Take this fruit home, cut it into small bits and give them to all the others saying, ‘This is to Bhagavan, this is to Bhagavan’ and you also eat some. Bhagavan is within everybody. Why do you bring them everyday? I told you not to. Give them to everybody there. Bhagavan is within everybody. Please go.” That girl went away disappointed. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, “Children take great pleasure in such things.

If they say they will give Swami something they know they will also get something out of it. When I was on the hill, little boys and girls used to come to me whenever they had a holiday. They used to ask their parents for money and bring with them packets of sweets, biscuits and the like.

I used to sit along with them and get my share.” “So you used to enjoy the feast like Bala Gopala,” I said. “If they say they will take something for Swami, they know they will get something for themselves. It is all right if that is done once in a way. But why every day? If all of them eat, isn’t it equivalent to my eating?” said Bhagavan. I was happy and pleased at Bhagavan so clearly illustrating to us how he is in everybody.

You know what happened a week or ten days ago! In the morning at breakfast, someone served more oranges to Bhagavan than to the others. Seeing that, Bhagavan completely stopped taking oranges. Four or five days back, when devotees appealed to him to resume taking oranges, Bhagavan said, “Is it not enough if you all eat?” The devotees said, “Isn’t it painful for us to eat when Bhagavan doesn’t? That is why we are appealing to you to excuse us.” Bhagavan said, “What is there to excuse? I don’t like them so much.” When they said, “They are good for Bhagavan’s health,” he replied, saying, “Look, there are about a hundred people taking breakfast. I am eating through so many mouths. Isn’t that enough? Should it be through this mouth only?” That is jnanadrishti. Who can give it to others?

Letter 133

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18th July, 1947
The day before yesterday a Tamil young man approached Bhagavan in the afternoon and said: “Swami, when I lay down doing dhyana today, I fell asleep. Someone, I can’t say who, appeared to me in my sleep. Seeing me, he said in a firm tone, ‘God has come down as an avatar of Kalki with fourteen heads. He is being brought up somewhere’. I have come here thinking that Bhagavan will be able to tell me where that Kalki avatar now is.” “I see. Why did you not ask the person himself who appeared in your dream about it? You should have asked him at the time.

What is lost even now? Go on doing dhyana until he comes back and tells you,” said Bhagavan. Unable to understand the significance of that, the young man said, “Will he really come back to me and give me the required information if I go on doing dhyana?” “You may or may not be informed where that avatara purusha is. If only you do not give up dhyana but do it continuously you will realise the Truth. Then there will be no room for any doubts,” said Bhagavan.

Taking advantage of this conversation, another person asked, “It is said that God lives in an eternal world. Is this true?” Bhagavan replied, “If we are in a temporary world, He may be in an eternal world. Are we in a temporary world? If this is true, that also is true. If we are not real, where is the world and where is time?” In the meanwhile, a young boy, four-years old, entered the hall with a toy motor car. Seeing that, Bhagavan said, “See.

Instead of the car carrying us, we are carrying the car. That is right,” and laughed. Later, looking at us all, he said, “Look, this also can be taken as an example. We say, ‘we sat in the motor car’, ‘the motor car is carrying us’, ‘we have come in the car’, ‘the car has brought us here’. Will the car which is inanimate move without our driving it? No. Who drives? We.

So also this world. Where is the world without our being in it? There must be someone to see the beauty of this world, and understand it. Who is the seer? He. He is everywhere. Then what is transient and what is permanent? If one knows the truth through Self-enquiry there will be no problems.” Bhagavan has already written the same thing like a sutra in verse No. 19 in his “Sad Vidya” (“Unnadhi Nalupadhi”).

Letter 132

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12th July, 1947
Arvind Bose, a longstanding Bengali devotee, had one son and one daughter. The son, a stalwart young man, suddenly passed away before he completed his eighteenth year. Bose was very much grieved and to get relief he used to ask Bhagavan questions now and then. Today also, he asked some questions. Even in that question, his grief was evident. Bhagavan, as usual, asked him to enquire into the Self and find out. He was not satisfied. Bhagavan then said, “All right. I will tell you a story from Vichara Sagaram. Listen.” So saying, he began telling us the following story: “Two youngsters by name Rama and Krishna, told their respective parents that they would go to foreign countries to prosecute further studies and then earn a lot of money. After some time, one of them died suddenly. The other studied well, earned a lot and was living happily. Some time later the one that was alive requested a merchant who was going to his native place to tell his father that he was wealthy and happy and that the other who had come with him had passed away. Instead of passing on the information correctly, the merchant told the father of the person that was alive that his son was dead and the father of the person that was dead, that his son had earned a lot of money and was living happily.

The parents of the person that was actually dead, were happy in the thought that their son would come back after some time while the parents of the person whose son was alive but was reported to be dead, were in great grief. In fact, neither of them saw their son but they were experiencing happiness or grief according to the reports received. That is all. It is only when they go to that country they will know the truth.

We too are similarly situated. We believe all sorts of things that the mind tells us and get deluded into thinking that what exists does not exist and that what does not exist, exists.

If we do not believe the mind but enter the heart and see the son that is inside, there is no need to see the children outside.” About a year back, a Rani from Bombay Presidency came here. She was a good lady and a mother of several children. Her husband was staying in foreign countries.

However courageous she might be, would she not feel his absence? We all thought she came here hoping to get peace of mind by Bhagavan’s darshan. Accordingly, you know what happened? Having heard that Muruganar had written several songs and verses in Tamil about Bhagavan, she requested Bhagavan through a friend, to get some of the good ones translated into English.

Though Bhagavan said in an indifferent manner, “What do I know? Better ask Muruganar himself,” by the time I went there at 2-30 p.m. he was turning over the pages of the book, leaving book-marks here and there and showing them to Sundaresa Iyer. I sat down, surprised at that kindness. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, “That Rani requested me to select some songs from Muruganar’s book and get them translated into English. In his book Sannidhi Murai there is a portion called ‘Bringasandesam’. I put some marks in that portion. The bhava is that of a nayika (heroine) and of a nayaka (hero). The mind is nayika. Ramana is nayaka.

The bee (the unwavering buddhi) is the maid. The gist of the songs marked is: the heroine says to her maid, ‘My Ramana has disappeared. Search and bring him’. The maid says, ‘Oh, mistress! When your Ramana is in your own self, where can I search for him? If at any time, the food given is hot, you say, ‘Oh! my Ramana, my lord, is in my heart; will he not get burnt with this heat? Now where do you want me to search? When your Lord is within yourself, where can I search for him? Give up this delusion. Join the Lord that is within yourself and be peaceful’. This is the gist of those songs.

I marked them as they may be of use to her. Poor lady! There is no knowing where her husband is. The mind is troubled.

So, we shall have to tell her to adapt her mental attitude.

I felt that these verses would be appropriate.” Meanwhile, the Rani came, Lokamma was made to sing those songs and Sundaresa Iyer to give the meaning in English. She was satisfied. We thought that Bhagavan, by this opportunity, taught us that one should not grieve over people residing in foreign countries but should turn the mind inward so that the atma swarupa (the Lord in the self) will be close to us at all times.

Letter 131

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10th July, 1947
It seems that a book by name Vichara Sagara Sara Sangraha written by Bhagavan in Tamil about thirty years ago, was got printed by Arunachala Mudaliar. As, however, Bhagavan’s name was not mentioned therein, it remained unknown. Recently, someone took Vichara Sagaram in Malayalam from the library and while he was returning it, it came into the hands of Bhagavan. He then remembered that he had once written Vichara Sagara Sara Sangraha and enquired where a printed copy was kept. After some search it was found in a crumpled state. When a devotee was copying it out for reprinting, Bhagavan asked him to include the example of a flag in regard to vairagya. When that devotee asked what is the significance of that example, Bhagavan said with a smile, “It means the flag of vairagya for a Jnani and the flag of raga for an ajnani will be there as if tied before them. One can tell who is a Jnani and who is an ajnani by seeing that flag. For an ajnani, even if he gets vairagya on account of mental or physical ailments, it will be temporary only. The flag of raga will come and stand in front of him. The flag of vairagya will never move. What greater sign does a Jnani require than that?” Someone else asked, “What induced Bhagavan to write this book?” “Sadhu Nischaladas wrote Vichara Sagaram in Hindi,” Bhagavan replied. “It is full of arguments.

Arunachala Mudaliar brought a Tamil translation of it and said, ‘this is very elaborate. Please write a small book summarising the important points in it’. As he was insistent and as it would be useful for sadhaks, I wrote it. He immediately published it. That was about thirty years ago.” “Why is it that Bhagavan’s name was not mentioned therein?” the devotee continued. “I was afraid every one might bring a book and press me to write a summary of it.

So I myself forbade it,” said Bhagavan. “There may be several similar unknown writings. It would be a good thing if they could be published,” I said. “Is that so? Have you no other work to do?” said Bhagavan and assumed mouna.

Bhagavan felt that the name of the book was not satisfactory and so changed it recently into Vicharamanimala.

When they were thinking of sending it to the press for publication with Bhagavan’s name on it, I felt that it would be better if Bhagavan himself wrote it in Telugu. I was afraid he would not agree, so I said nothing. Mouni (Srinivasa Rao) made Rajagopala Iyer request Bhagavan to write it in Telugu also, so that both could be published at one time and said to me encouragingly, “Nagamma, why don’t you also ask Bhagavan?” I accordingly prayerfully requested Bhagavan.

For some time he argued saying, “Am I a Telugu Pandit? Why don’t you write it? Why should I?” However, as he is full of kindness, he himself eventually translated it into Telugu in answer to our prayers. It will shortly be published in both languages. It is in prose. Each sentence is like a sutra.

Letter 130

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8th July, 1947
Some people might say, “From what you have written in the last three or four letters, it is clear that Sri Bhagavan not only declines to allow pada puja (worship of the feet), abhisheka (worship with water) and uchishta tirtha prasadas, but actually condemns them. But then, in Guru Gita and other books, it is stated that Guru pada puja, padodaka panam (taking in water with which the feet are washed) and the like are approved religious practices. Some elders have accepted such practices from their disciples. What then is the explanation?”

Bhagavan is in a highly exalted state and has realised the oneness of the Self with the universe so as to dispense with the distinction between Guru and sishya. Hence he does not require these practices and always maintains that they are meant only for those who have not yet given up the belief that the body is identical with Atma, and that it is for the satisfaction of such people that these practices have been laid down by some of the ancients. It may then be asked, “If that is so, why does he remain indifferent when some of these acts are done and object to them afterwards?” When two or three people do it once in a way he may not mind it and feel sorry that they have not yet got over the belief that the body is identical with Atma, but if it becomes a regular practice, how can he refrain from objecting? He might also feel sorry that the dehatma bhavana (a feeling that the body is identical with Atma) had not yet left people. In his objections, there will be many fine shades of thought which is not possible for us to describe exactly.

It has been mentioned in books, that Bhagavan himself gave vibhuti and the like to Sivaprakasam Pillai and some other devotees. We have also heard of this from several people. But then, Bhagavan himself has told us several times that when there were not many people around, he used to move with them freely and give them whatever they asked for. Even now, if he is eating anything and we, longstanding devotees are there, he gives a portion of it to us. When he was living on the hill it happened sometimes that there was not enough food for all the people there, and so he himself used to mix all the available food, make it into small balls of equal size and give one to each of them, eating one himself.

It was natural for the devotees to feel that that was prasadam to the sishyas from the Guru’s hand. That is all. I have never heard Bhagavan saying that he was giving such things as anugraha (grace extended to the sishya by the Guru) or that he had ever done such a thing before.

Recently a devotee who had heard such reports, asked Bhagavan himself about it: “I hear that Bhagavan gave hastha mastaka samyogam to a devotee. Is that a fact?” “How is that possible? As I got up from the sofa or conversed with people or went about here and there, my hand might have unintentionally touched their heads, and they might have taken it as hastha diksha (touching with the hand by way of blessing). In the case of people with whom I am a bit familiar, I might even have patted them. That is all. I have never deliberately done this hastha mastaka samyogam. I like to move with people freely and in a natural manner. And they might take it as an act of grace from me. Just because of that, will it become hastha mastaka samyogam?” said Bhagavan.

About ten or fifteen days back, a sadhu came here and stayed for a few days. Approaching Bhagavan humbly one day, he said, “Swami, I pray that, when you take food, you may be pleased to give me a morsel of food as prasadam.” “Take all the food you eat as prasadam of the Lord. Then it becomes God’s prasadam. Isn’t all that we eat Bhagavat- prasadam? Who is it that eats? Where does he come from? If you go to the very root of things and know the truth, you will find that everything is Bhagavat-prasadam,” said Bhagavan.

Letter 129

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6th July, 1947
Long back, when there were not many people in the Ashram, one of the attendants of Bhagavan used to wait until Bhagavan had finished eating and then used to have his food on Bhagavan’s leaf. Gradually Asramites and old devotees began asking for that leaf and getting it. So long as rival claims for the leaf did not take a serious turn, Bhagavan did not take much notice of it. A plate also had to be placed before the leaf for washing his hands. As soon as he went away after washing his hands, that water also used to be taken in like tirtha (holy water). In due course, these two practices of the Asramites went beyond the Ashram precincts and spread to Ramana Nagar also.

One day the mother of a wealthy devotee came there during lunch time and stood by the side of Bhagavan.

Seeing her, Bhagavan said, “Why don’t you sit down for meals?” She did not do so. Bhagavan understood the purpose but kept quiet as if he did not know anything.

On the other side, the granddaughter of another devotee, aged eight, stood with a tumbler in her hand. Noticing her also, Bhagavan said, “Why are you also standing? Sit down and eat food.” “No,” she said. “Then why have you come? What is that tumbler for?” asked Bhagavan. After all, she was an unsophisticated child, and so, not knowing it to be a secret, said, “Grandmother has sent me to fetch tirtham.” Bhagavan could not contain his anger any longer and so said, “I see. That is the thing. This child is waiting for tirtham and that lady for the leaf; that is it, isn’t it?” When he thus asked with a commanding tone, one of the people near him said, “Yes.”

“I have been noticing this nonsense for some time now,” he said. “They think that Swami sits in the hall with closed eyes and does not notice any of these things. I did not want to interfere in such matters all these days, but there does not seem to be any limit to them. Tirthas and prasadas out of uchishtam (food and water left as a remainder) and people to take turns for them! Look! Henceforth, I will not wash my hands in the plate, not even anywhere about this place. I will not leave the leaf here and go. I myself will remove it and throw it away. You understand? All of you join together and do these things. This is the only punishment.”

So saying and repeating several other charges for a long time, Bhagavan folded his leaf after eating food and then got up with the used leaf in his hand. However much people there begged of him, he did not give them the leaf, but went up the hill and, after turning a corner, threw it away and then washed his hands there. Eventually the Asramites prayed and assured him that they would stop those undesirable practices. He said, “When everyone removes his used leaf and throws it away, why should I leave mine?” Until 1943, after meals, everyone used to remove their leaf and throw it away. That practice was changed only after this incident.

After all the Asramites swore that they themselves would remove all the leaves and throw them away along with Bhagavan’s leaf, he reluctantly began leaving his leaf there.

But even till today he has been washing his hands outside, near the steps leading into the hall. If anybody requested him to wash his hands in a plate, he would say, “Will you provide all these people with plates? If all the others do not have them, why do I require one?” What reply could we give him?

Letter 128

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3rd July, 1947
A devotee, who has been coming to the Ashram off and on, yesterday, during conversation regarding Bhagavan’s stay on the hill, asked him, “While Bhagavan was on the hill, it seems some one did abhisekham to Bhagavan with coconut water. Is that a fact?”

Laughingly Bhagavan said, “Yes, while I was in Virupaksha Cave, some ladies from the north came. I was sitting on a platform under the tamarind tree with half-closed eyes, without particularly noticing their arrival. I thought they would go away after a while. Suddenly there was a noise of breaking something. I therefore opened my eyes and saw coconut water trickling down my head. One of those ladies had done that abhisekam. What was I to do? I was in mouna and couldn’t talk. I had no towel even to wipe the water off, and so the water dried on my body as it was.

Not only that. There used to be lighting of camphor, pouring of water on the head, thirthas (sacred waters), prasadas, and several such troublesome performances. It used to be quite a job stopping such things.”

I myself have seen similar instances some four or five years back. In the room where Bhagavan takes his bath, there is a hole through which the water that is used drains out.

Below that, a gutter was constructed to drain off the water.

At the time of his bathing, some devotees used to gather at that place, sprinkle on their heads the water that came out of the room, wipe their eyes and even use it for achamaniyam (sipping drops of water for religious purposes). That was going on quietly and unobserved for some time. But in due course people began bringing vessels and buckets to gather that water and soon there was a regular queue. That naturally resulted in some noise which reached Bhagavan’s ears. He enquired and found out the facts. Addressing the attendants, he said,

“Oh! Is that the matter? When I heard the noise I thought it was something else. What nonsense! Will you get this stopped or shall I bathe at the tap outside? If that is done, you will be saved the trouble of heating water for me, and there will be no trouble for them either, to watch and wait for that tirtha. What do I want? Only two things, a towel and a koupinam. I can bathe and then rinse them at the tap and that completes the job. If not the tap, you have the hill streams and the tanks. Why this bother? What do you say?”

When Bhagavan thus took them to task, they told everything to Sarvadhikari who thereupon put a ban on any one going to the side of the bath room during the bathing hour.

Another thing happened during those days. Bhagavan used to go to the hill in the hot sun after taking meals in the forenoon. On his return, when he came to the platform near the hall, the attendants used to pour water on his feet from the kamandalu (wooden bowl) and he used to wash his feet and then go in. Some used to hide somewhere there and, as soon as he went into the hall, they used to collect that water and sprinkle it on their heads. Once an enquiry starts, all faults come to light, don’t they? Bhagavan appears to have noticed that also. One afternoon he saw through the window an old and long standing devotee sprinkling this water on his head. Seizing that opportunity, he began saying,

“There it is! See that! As I have not been taking any special notice of it, it is going beyond all limits. However long they are here and however often they hear what I say, these ridiculous things do not stop. What is it they are doing? I shall henceforth stop washing my feet, do you understand?”

He thus reprimanded them severely. That devotee was stunned, and with shame and grief, went to Bhagavan immediately and begged to be excused.

Not only did Bhagavan admonish him like that, but from the next day onwards, Bhagavan refused to wash his feet there even though the attendants pleaded with him to retain the existing custom. As I was then in the town, I did not know about this immediately. Four days later, somebody arranged bhiksha in the Ashram and invited me for meals.

After meals I stayed there. Bhagavan as usual came down the hill. As I had some doubts about my sadhana, I thought I could ask him leisurely after he returned to the hall and so, I stood at the western window outside the hall. It is usual for me to do so whenever I wanted to ask Bhagavan and clear my doubts. You know what happened this time? Instead of facing east, as usual, Bhagavan turned towards the side where I was standing. I stepped aside and gave way with some misgivings. He looked at me with concealed anger. I trembled with fear. I did not know why he looked at me like that. As he was turning the corner by the window, the attendants tried to give him water to wash his feet.

Bhagavan shouted at them, saying, “No.” When they said, “You have been in the hot sun,” he said. “What of that? If we look to cleanliness, a number of people wait for that water. Enough of this. If you want, you wash your feet.” So saying, Bhagavan entered the hall.

I was wondering if I had committed any fault resulting in Bhagavan getting angry and so went away, without trying to clear my doubts. In the evening, I enquired and learnt all that had happened before. It was only after that, I had some peace of mind.

Letter 127

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30th June, 1947
Recently a rich lady residing in Ramana Nagar was getting a basket of jasmine flowers from her garden everyday and giving them to all the married ladies in the hall. Bhagavan observed this for four or five days but said nothing. She did not discontinue that practice. One day she put the flower basket on the stool, bowed before Bhagavan and got up.

Bhagavan looking at someone nearby said, “Look! She has brought something. They are flowers perhaps. What for?” With some fear she said that they were not for Bhagavan but for the married ladies and began distributing them. “Oh! If that is so, they could as well be distributed at their houses.

Why here? If someone gives flowers thus, all others begin doing the same thing. Seeing that, people who come newly will think that flowers must be distributed and will buy and bring them. Then the trouble starts. I never touch flowers.

In some places, it is usual to present flower garlands. Hence, many people bring flowers. I have not allowed people to do puja to the feet or to the head. Why do we require such practices?” said Bhagavan.

With fear and trepidation she said, “No. I will not bring them any more.” Bhagavan said, “All right. That is good,” and looking at those still near him, went on as follows: “You know what happened at one of the Jayanthi celebrations? A devotee got a book by name Pushpanjali printed and said he would read it. When I said ‘Yes’, he stood a little behind and began reading. He appears to have had some flowers hidden in his lap. As the reading came to a close, bunches of flowers fell on my legs. On enquiry, it was found that it was his doing.

He did it thus because he knew I would not agree if he told me beforehand. What to do? Perhaps in his view it is no puja unless it is done like that.”

During the early days of my stay here, on a Varalakshmi Puja Day, one or two married ladies placed some flowers on Bhagavan’s feet, bowed before him and went away after seeking his permission for puja. Next year, all began doing the same thing. Bhagavan looked at them angrily and said, “There it is — one after another, all have started. Why this? This is a result of my keeping quiet instead of stopping it in the very beginning. Enough of this.”

Not only in regard to himself but even in regard to puja to the deities Bhagavan mildly rebukes devotees about using leaves and flowers. I have already written to you in one of my previous letters about the laksha patri puja (puja with one lakh of leaves) of Echamma.

There is another instance. During the days when Bhagavan used to go round the hill with devotees in stages, they camped one morning at Gowtama Ashram. After the men and women had cooked, eaten and rested, and were getting ready to go so as to reach the Ashram before sunset, a lady devotee by name Lakshmamma, who was born in Tiruchuli and was a childhood friend of Bhagavan and who used to talk to him familiarly, was plucking and putting in a basket the jasmine and tangedu flowers that had grown luxuriantly on the trees in and around the cremation ground there. Bhagavan noticed it and asked smilingly, “Lakshmamma, what are you doing?” She said, “I am plucking flowers.” “I see. Is that your job? It is all right but why so many flowers?” asked Bhagavan. “For puja,” she said. “Oh! It won’t be a puja unless you worship with so many flowers, is that it?” said Bhagavan. “I don’t know. These trees have abundance of flowers. So I am plucking them,” she said.

“I see. As in your opinion it will not be nice if there is a luxuriant growth of flowers, you are making them naked. You have seen the beauty of that growth and you do not like others to see it.
You have watered them and helped them in their growth, haven’t you? So you can take the liberty of plucking all the flowers and making them naked so that no one else can see that beauty. It is only then that you will get the full benefit of your puja, is it?” said Bhagavan.