Letter 8

28th November, 1945
During the last two or three months, Bhagavan's personal attendants have been massaging His legs with some medicated oil to relieve the rheumatic pain. Some of the devotees, zealous in attention to Bhagavan's body, also began massaging by turn every half an hour, and this resulted in upsetting the usual Ashram routine.

Would Bhagavan tolerate all this? He was always considerate even to His personal attendants and would never say emphatically "No" to anything; so He said in a casual way,

"All of you please wait for a while, I will also massage these legs a little. Should I too not have some of the punyam (merit)?"

So saying, He removed their hands and began massaging His own legs. Not only was I very much amused at this but what little desire might have still been lurking in me to touch Sri Bhagavan's lotus feet and thus perform pranam (salutation) was completely obliterated. Bhagavan's words have a peculiar charm of their own! Look! He too wants a little of the punyam! What a delicate hint to those who have the intelligence to take it!

It was about that time that a retired judge of ripe old age said, "Swamiji, I should also be given my share of service to the feet of the Guru." To this Bhagavan replied:

"Oh, really? Atma-vai guruhu! (Service to Self is service to Guru.) You are now 70 years of age. You to do service to me? Enough of that! At least from now onwards, serve yourself. It is more than enough if you remain quiet."

When one comes to think about it, what greater upadesa (teaching) is there than this? Bhagavan says it is enough if one can remain quiet. It is natural for Him to do so, but are we capable of it? However much we try we do not attain that state. What else can we do than depend upon Sri Bhagavan's Grace?

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Letter 7

27th November, 1945
I opened yesterday's letter and read it. The march to Skandasramam was undoubtedly a happy trip. But on deep thinking one thing could not but strike my mind. In a song Vinnakota Venkataratnam writes:

"He satisfies the hunger and sends them away; but allows not anybody to see the path to realisation. He behaves as one attached and non-attached. Having shown the path, he never cares to enquire further."

These words seem to have come true. So long as we were there in Skandasramam, he spoke on some topic or other and after feeding us to the full, commanded us to disperse. Notice this! By this alone we were overjoyed and upset, losing body-consciousness. The real wealth, the nectar-like treasure must have been hidden by Him somewhere in Arunachala. Without allowing us to trace and find out that treasure, he made us forgetful of our real object by administering intoxicants like puliyodara, dadhyonnam etc.

None had opened his lips to ask Bhagavan of that treasure.

But the fault really lies with us. This was not the kind of food we really required, but of a different variety, the ekarasa, the one without a second. It is said that even a mother never gives anything without being asked. We only silently murmur about some want. But if we yearn for it with genuine hunger, would He not feed us with the spiritual food of everlasting knowledge? He is the ocean of love and sympathy. We didn't know how to ask Him for it. How is he affected thereby? He kept His treasure hidden safely in Arunachala as if it were His own house. How striking are the actions of Mahatmas! He always fixes His gaze on It through the window. He never becomes unaware of this hidden treasure even for a moment.

Is it possible for people like me to find out that treasure? He bestows it on us only when we acquire the requisite merit. It is said that gifts according to one's deserts should be made, and seed according to the nature of the soil should be sown.

Though we possess among us such a Bestower as our Guru, we are not able to attain that Treasure, the reason being our own incompetence. What do you say? Is it not true?

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Letter 6

26th November, 1945
When I went to the Ashram for the early morning Veda Parayana everyone was terribly busy. The kitchen presented a picturesque appearance, some cooking, some cleaning, some giving orders, everyone busy with one thing or another.

Puliyodara, dadhyonnam, pongal, vadai, chips, puries and kootu and ever so many eatables were filled into baskets and sent up the hill. The Sarvadhikari does not appear to have had a wink of sleep the whole night. He is the person who has taken all the trouble.

Lord Krishna is reported to have stopped the celebration of the annual Indra Yajnam performed by the shepherds and instead arranged for the worship of the Govardhana Giri itself.

When you saw the series of baskets going up the hill it appeared as if Sri Ramana had arranged this worship of Arunachala in place of the vana samaradhana of the Amala Tree (garden festival) performed annually during the month of Karthika.

After Veda Parayana, Bhagavan had his bath and breakfast and started for Skandasramam accompanied by Rangaswami, who is like Nandi to Lord Siva. Leading the way, Bhagavan went up the hill to Skandasramam as if he was going to his own home.

Without giving the least inconvenience to Bhagavan the devotees proceeded in several groups and reached Skandasramam. Aunt Alamelu (sister of Bhagavan) and myself followed. Some other women got to the destination a little late. Being surrounded by the devotees Bhagavan was seated comfortably under the pleasant shade of the trees just in front of the Skandasramam building. This showed what a Rishiasramam is generally like. This Ashram was just like Badarikasramam of old as described in Harivamsam though the latter could not now be witnessed direct. This Skandasramam like Badarikasramam provided a visual feast with its water coming out of the rocky fountain, resembling the sandhyarghya jalam (the oblations at dawn and dusk) of Samyameswara and warblings and melodious notes of the birds sounding like the musical hymns of Sama Veda as sung by rishikumaras (the sons of seers). Apart from the many sadhakas and sannyasins present, lawyers and doctors, engineers and artists, newspaper correspondents and poets, songsters and a good many others arrived from Madras, Pondicherry and Villupuram. The young and old, the men and women and all without distinction of high and low, squatted on the ground around Bhagavan looking at him with a fixed gaze. While the Arunagiri abounding in mineral wealth served as the precious jewelled-throne, the clouds adorning the sky served the purpose of Sveta Chhatram (the white Umbrella) and the tree grove with innumerable branches acted as vensamarams (fans used in deity worship).

Sri Bhagavan shone in his glory as an emperor crowned, while Prakritikanta (Nature personified) waved lights to him with its agreeable rays of the sun.

Brother! How can I draw that picture for you? The Maharshi is calm and his serene gaze, coming from the source, pervades all corners. His gentle smile shone like the cool rays of the moon. His words simply rained amrit. We sat there like statues without consciousness of the body. The photographers then attended to their job. After 9-30 a.m. the usual daily programme of the Ashram below, relating to mails, newspapers, etc. was gone through as in a Maharaja’s durbar. The clouds then increased and the wind blew heavily. The devotees gave Bhagavan a shawl with which he covered his whole body except the face. Then Bhagavan, in his sitting posture, looked like his mother Alagamma incarnate. Aunt and myself were of the same opinion. This scene was also photographed.

Sri Bhagavan preached for some time in silence in the “gurosthu mouna vyakhyanam” (the Guru explaining by mere silence) way. There may certainly be some pure-hearted souls that could all become “chhinna samsayah” (cleared of all doubts). But in my case, my mind ran to the preparations like puliyodara and dadhyonnam, etc., as it was lunch time.

The question was whether everything was offered to the hill or anything was left behind. The doubt was solved after 11- 30 in the forenoon. My brethren wished to arrange the delicacies for Bhagavan separately in a comfortable place.

But would he agree to that? He got a table arranged by his sofa and feasted there in the midst of all.

After the meal, his sofa was set up on the verandah, which has an iron-grating enclosure. The devotees were at first at a distance but in a few minutes came near to Bhagavan.

Aunt Alamelu and I with some other women were seated in an adjacent room looking at Bhagavan through a window just opposite to his lotus feet. He then began to talk, telling us short stories about his past life on the mountain, relating the arrival of the mother, the construction of Skandasramam, the water supply, the supply of provisions, the rule of the monkey kingdom, the peacock dances, his association with serpents and leopards. During this discourse he greeted a new entrant, the poet Naganarya, by enquiring, “When did you come?” Turning towards me he observed, “Here he comes.” I replied, “Yes.” Then something was recalled to his mind and he said, fixing his resplendent gaze,
There mother had her nirvana (left her mortal frame). We made her sit there outside. Still no mark of death was visible in her face.
Like one seated in deep samadhi, divine light was seen in a holy dance. There, just there, where you are now sitting.”

His enchanting words entered my ears like the sweet note of the Venu (the divine flute). I stood at this place worth seeking and heard the words worth hearing. What a glorious day is today! Kapila liberated Devayani by initiating her into the Reality. Dhruva put Sunita on the path of salvation. Sri Ramana in his turn not only vouchsafed the eternal empire of freedom and bliss to his revered mother but also did the highest honour by installing the Mathrubhuteswara Lingam on her samadhi to make her glory permanently extolled in the world.

On hearing the word “Mother” from the mouth of Sri Bhagavan, I was overcome with ecstasy and tears filled my eyes. It sounded as though the words about the mother were uttered to the daughter. Mahatmas always honour women. They view woman as the mother and love in perfect form. There is no creation without nature. Before the arrival of the mother there was no cooking in the Ashram. The mother came and gave a hearty meal to the residents. The agnihotra (fire) first instituted by the mother does the cooking even today and fills the bellies of thousands of devotees.

I turned round to see the photo of that revered mother but, being disappointed on finding none, said silently within, “O Mother, that brought glory to womanhood in general! We are blessed!” In the meanwhile various kinds of delicacies were served. Half an hour after we ate them, puri and koottu were given. After helping ourselves we began to go back.

After seeing us all off one after another, Bhagavan came down from the throne of Arunagiri accompanied by his attendants and, walking slowly, reached the Ashram at its foot just as the sun sank behind the mountain on the west. Then the routine programme of Veda Parayana, etc., was gone through as usual.

May the powers of the Mahatma be heard and seen direct.

Listen! Can they be transcribed in true perspective? Is it possible for any one to do it? Let Brahma alone do that job.

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Letter 5

25th November, 1945
Tomorrow is the auspicious day fixed for Bhagavan to go to Skandasramam with devotees and hold a feast there.

All the brother and sister devotees residing in and around the Ashram were busy the whole day making a fuss about arrangements for the trip. Bhagavan was however sitting as usual, dignified, calm and unconcerned. If all ask him to go, he may do so; if they say do not go, he will stay away. Is there anything for him to pack up or worry about? The kamandalu (water bowl), the karra (walking stick), the kaupeena (loincloth) and the towel over him are all the things about him. The moment he thinks of it he could get ready to start.

Sankaracharya has described only such sages as “kaupeenavantah khalu bhagyavantah” (he who wears a loincloth is verily the richest). This Ashram, this programme, these devotees and this paraphernalia are all like a drama enacted on the stage for the benefit of others, but does Bhagavan really need them all? Out of his abundant mercy he is in our midst; thus bound down. By a mere wish, could he not go away freely crossing the seven seas? Remember, his staying with us is our special good luck. I shall write to you again about tomorrow’s happenings.

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Letter 4

24th November, 1945
Yesterday I wrote to you about Bhagavan talking sometimes of the marriage festival of “Father and Mother.”
Not only that, but whenever devotees bring newly wedded couples in their family to pay homage at the lotus feet of Sri Bhagavan, he blesses them with his wonted gracious smile; he listens with interest to all the various incidents of the marriage. If you observe Bhagavan’s face on such occasions, you can see the same amusement which our elders used to show when they witnessed the dolls’ marriages that we performed in our childhood days.

Prabhavati got married not long ago. It must have been about a year back. For about two years before her marriage she was staying here. She is a girl from Maharashtra, good- looking and cultured. She wanted to be a great bhakta (devotee) like Saint Meerabai and so used to sing and dance and say that she would never marry, and she would don ochre garments and behave like a naughty child before Sri Bhagavan. Bhagavan knew that her naughtiness would not leave her until she got married. At last somehow she did get married. Immediately after that the bride and bridegroom came in their wedding attire with their relatives and offerings of fruits and flowers and bowed down before Bhagavan.

After a stay of two or three days she came one morning at 8 o’clock with her husband seeking Bhagavan’s blessings before leaving to set up home in her husband’s place. Squirrels were playing about Bhagavan’s sofa and peacocks were wandering outside the hall. There were not many people; it was calm and quiet in the hall, the young man bowed down to Bhagavan with awe and respect, took leave of him and stood waiting at the side of the doorway. With downcast looks and bubbling shyness and tearful eyes, the beloved child of the Ashram, while waiting there for Bhagavan’s permission, looked like Shakuntala trying to tear herself away from the Kanva Ashram[1]. Bhagavan nodded his head in token of permission, and then she bowed down to him. No sooner had she crossed the threshold than Bhagavan remarked, looking at me, “It was only yesterday, she had the chapter of Krishnavatar in Bhagavata copied out by Sundaresa Iyer.” I said with delight, “When next she comes here, she will come with a child in her arms.” Meanwhile she began to sing a full-throated song full of devotion with voice as sweet as a Kokila while going round the hall in pradakshina (circumambulation). Bhagavan was evidently moved and like Kanva Rishi himself, he said, “Do you hear the hymn from Mukundamala?[2]” My eyes were filled with tears.

I went out and gave her my blessings while she again and again prostrated herself to Bhagavan; then I saw her out of the Ashram and returned to the hall. I do not know if you will consider this an exaggeration, but I may tell you that the stories we have read in the Puranas are being re- enacted here and now before our very eyes.

[1] http://www.kanvaashram.org/1.html
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mukundamala

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Letter 3

23rd November, 1945
This afternoon, while Viswanath was sitting near Bhagavan along with other devotees, Bhagavan was somehow reminded of an old widow and began to speak about her as follows: (I afterwards learnt that she is the younger sister of Muthu Krishna Bhagavathar who received Sri Bhagavan with kindness and gave him food at Kilur Agraharam.)

“That good lady not only gave me a hearty meal, but also, with a loving heart, gave me a parcel of sweetmeats offered as naivedya (offerings to God) to the household God, saying, ‘My dear boy, keep this with you carefully and eat the sweetmeats on the way.’

She came to see me twice while I was in Virupaksha Cave and used to say, ‘My dear boy, look what a state you are in! Your body is golden and you do not even wrap a cloth round it.’” When he spoke in this strain about her motherly affection, I could see that Bhagavan was overflowing with love.

His voice was choked with emotion. That sight reminded me of the saying that the heart of a Jnani is as soft as butter, and once more of the old saying, “bhakti poornathaya Jnanam” (The culmination of devotion is knowledge).

Sometime back, while reading that portion in Arunachala Purana where Gautama was extolling Amba, Bhagavan’s eyes were flooded with tears, his voice faltered and he put the book aside and sank into silence. Whenever any incident full of love takes place, or whenever passages saturated with bhakti are read, we often see Bhagavan thus overwhelmed with emotion. As one goes on observing, one gets confirmed in the view that prema and bhakti (devotion) are merely different aspects of jnana (knowledge).

About a week ago, a story appeared in the magazine Hindu Sundari under the heading “Paachikalu” (dice). It seems it was taken from the Skanda Purana. Once, even Parvati and Parameswara succumbed to the quarrel-mongering of Narada. “Lakshmi and Vishnu play dice, so why not you?” said Narada, and egged them on to play. Parvati was enthusiastic over the idea and persuaded Siva to play dice with her. In the game, Siva lost and Parvati was puffed up with pride and spoke slightingly of him. That is the legend.

After reading it, Bhagavan, his heart full of bhakti, asked me, “Have you read this story?” When I said, “Yes, Bhagavan,” he said with a voice choked with feeling, “The holy festival which is annually performed here on Sankaranti day, deals mainly with this quarrel between Uma and Maheswara.”

You know, every year, the divine marriage festival is celebrated here and during those days, if anybody were to speak about the festival in Sri Bhagavan’s presence, Bhagavan would usually remark with great feeling, “This is the marriage festival of Father and Mother.” You know the lives of Mahatmas are full of peculiar incidents. They express in their faces whatever rasa (feeling) is appropriate to the occasion. But what can one say in the presence of the all pervading vijnana rasa which integrates all the other rasas?

Letter 2

22nd November, 1945
Yesterday a Bengali Swami in ochre robes by name Hrishikesanand came here.
This morning from 8-30 to 11-00 Bhagavan continuously discussed spiritual matters with him. That voice flowed full of nectar and uninterruptedly like the waters of the Ganges. How can my pen keep pace with that great flow? That amrit (nectar) can only be drunk deep with the hand of devotion: how can it be gathered and conveyed on paper? When Sri Bhagavan was relating his experiences in Madurai of the vision of death, these eyes were incapable of taking in the radiance of his personality, these ears of grasping the full wisdom of his words. It is natural for the enthusiasm of one who relates an incident to reflect the level of intelligence of him who listens.
I should have given you a more detailed account of the questions asked by the Swami and the replies given by Bhagavan; only at present the place reserved for ladies in the hall is rather far from Bhagavan and, as I happened to be sitting at the back, I could not hear properly all that was being discussed. I did however hear one thing clearly.

Bhagavan said, “In the vision of death, though all the senses were benumbed, the aham sphurana (Self-awareness) was clearly evident, and so I realised that it was that awareness that we call ‘I’, and not the body. This Self-awareness never decays. It is unrelated to anything. It is Self-luminous. Even if this body is burnt, it will not be affected. Hence, I realised on that very day so clearly that that was ‘I’.” Many more such things were said but I could not follow or remember them, and so I am not able to write any more about them. There have been several discussions as this before. I am only sorry I have let slip such innumerable gems. Please excuse my laziness and indifference in not writing to you even though you have been asking me all these days to write.

Letter 1

21st November, 1945
Brother, you have asked me to write to you from time to time whatever striking happens in Sri Bhagavan’s presence and what Sri Bhagavan says on such occasions.
But am I capable of doing so? Anyway, I will make an attempt and am beginning this very day. The attempt will succeed only if Bhagavan’s Grace is on it.
The day before yesterday being full moon, the usual Deepotsava (festival of lights) was celebrated on a grand scale.

This morning Sri Arunachaleswarar started for giri pradakshina (going round the hill) with the usual retinue and devotees and accompaniment of music. By the time the procession reached the Ashram gate, Sri Niranjanananda Swami (the Sarvadhikari) came out with Ashram devotees, offered coconuts and camphor to Sri Arunachaleswarar, and paid homage when the procession was stopped and the priests performed arati (waving of the lights) to the God. Just then Sri Bhagavan happened to be going towards the Gosala (cowshed) and seeing the grandeur he sat down on the pial near the tap by the side of the book depot. The arati plate offered to Arunachaleswarar was brought to Bhagavan by Ashram devotees and Sri Bhagavan took a little Vibhuti (holy ashes) and applied it to his forehead, saying in an undertone “Appakku Pillai Adakkam” (The son is beholden to the father). His voice seemed choked with emotion as he spoke. The expression on his face proved the ancient saying “bhakti poornathaya Jnanam” (the culmination of devotion is knowledge).
Sri Bhagavan is Lord Siva’s son.
Sri Ganapati Muni’s saying that he is Skanda incarnate, was confirmed. It struck us that Bhagavan was teaching us that since all creatures are the children of Ishwara, even a Jnani should be beholden to Ishwara.
We can never tell how pregnant with meaning are the words of Mahatmas. You ask me to write somehow, but how can I convey the exquisite beauty of his utterances? How can I describe adequately? I wrote in a recent poem that every word that falls from his lips is scripture. Why talk of his words alone? If one has the ability to understand, his very gaze and gait, his action and inaction, inhaling and exhaling — everything about him is full of meaning. Have I the capacity to understand and interpret all this? With full faith in Sri Bhagavan’s grace, I shall write to you whatever occurs to me, serving Sri Bhagavan with the devotion of the squirrel to Sri Rama.
(Suri Nagamma, Letters from Sri Ramanasramam)

Photo taken from here.

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