Letter 38

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21st February, 1946
Yadavalli Rama Sastri came here the other day and asked Bhagavan, “Swami, people say that the Self is as luminous as a crore of suns. Is that true?” Bhagavan said, “Certainly! Granted that its lustre is equal to that of a crore of suns, how could it be determined? We can’t see with these eyes even the one sun that is visible. How can we see a crore of suns? That is a different eye with a different type of vision. When you can see with that eye, you can give whatever name you like to it, a crore of suns or moons, or anything you like.” Some time back, another person asked a similar question: “It is said that Aswathama, Vibheeshana and others are chiranjeevis (eternally living beings) and that they are now living somewhere. Is that true?” “Yes, that is true,” said Bhagavan. “What is your idea of a chiranjeevi? Those that know the state which is never destroyed, where is death for them, and where is birth? They live as chiranjeevis for all time and at all places. We are now talking about them, and so they are present here. When it is said that a person lives forever, it does not pertain to this body consisting of the five elements. When Brahma Kalpas (ages of Brahma) themselves come and go like dolls’ houses, is it possible to attribute permanency to bodies that age?” said Bhagavan.

Letter 37

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20th February, 1946
About a week back, a newcomer to the Ashram asked Bhagavan, “Is it possible to attain moksha (deliverance) while still in this body?” Bhagavan said, “What is moksha? Who attains it? Unless there is bondage, how can there be moksha? Who has that bondage?” “Me,” said the questioner. “Who really are you? How did you get the bondage? And why? If you first know that, then we can think of attaining moksha while in this body,” said Bhagavan. Unable to ask any further questions, he kept quiet and after a while went away.

After he left, Bhagavan looked at all the rest of us with kindness in his eyes and said, “Many people ask the same question. They want to attain moksha in this body. There is a sangham (society). Not only now, but even in olden days many people not only taught their disciples but also wrote books to the effect that there were kaya kalpa vratas (rejuvenation), and such things, and that this body could be made as strong as an adamant, so as to become imperishable. After saying all that, doing ever so many things and writing about them at length, they died in course of time. When the Guru himself who talked and preached of rejuvenation passed away, what about his disciples? We do not know what will happen the next moment to a thing that we see now. Peace cannot be attained unless through Self-enquiry one realises that one is not the body and, with vairagya (absence of worldly desires and passions), one ceases to care about it. Moksha is after all the attainment of shanti (perfect peace). If therefore peace cannot be attained so long as the body is identified with the Self, any attempt to keep the body for ever as it is, increases the bondage instead of decreasing it. It is all an illusion,” said Bhagavan.

Letter 36

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5th February, 1946
You know, off and on, Bhagavan has been going through Sri Ramana Leela, which has recently been received from the printers. In that connection, Rangaswami asked yesterday, “Has the story about the towel been written in it?” As it was not in the book, Bhagavan told us as follows: “About forty years back -- perhaps in 1906 -- when I was in Pachiamman Koil, I had with me only one Malayalam towel. It was given to me by somebody. As the material was flimsy it became worn out within two months and was torn in several places. Palaniswami was not in town. I had therefore to look after the cooking and all other domestic work. As I used to dry my feet and hands with the towel every now and then, it got all sorts of colours. Its condition would be seen if I used it as a cover for the body. So I used to roll it and keep it near at hand. What did it matter to me? It was enough if the required work gets done with its help. After bathing, I used to dry myself with the towel, and then put it out to dry. I used to guard it carefully so that no one else would know about it.

One day a mischievous little boy saw when I was drying it, and said, ‘Swami, Swami, this towel is required by the Governor. He has asked me to get it from you. Please give it to me.’ So saying he mischievously stretched out his hand.

‘Oh, dear! This towel! No, I cannot give it. Go away!’ I said.

“As that towel gradually got torn more and more with a thousand holes in it, I ceased to keep it with me lest it should be seen by Sesha Iyer and others. I used it after my bath, and then after drying it, hid it in a hole in the trunk of a tree within the temple precincts. One day, when I went out somewhere, Sesha Iyer and others, while searching for something else, happened to search that hole in the tree trunk, and found the towel. Seeing its condition and blaming themselves for their neglect, they began offering profuse apologies when I returned. ‘What is the matter?’ I asked. ‘Is it this towel with a thousand holes that you are daily drying your body with after your bath? Shame on our devotion to you! We could not find out even this.’ So saying, they brought several bundles of towels.

“Something else also happened before this. My kowpinam (small piece of cloth, usually a small strip, worn over the privities) got torn. I do not usually ask anyone for anything.

Bodily privacy has however to be maintained. Where could I get a needle and thread available to mend the kowpinam? At last, I got hold of a thorn, made a hole in it, took out a thread from the kowpinam itself, put it into the hole and thus mended the cloth, and, so as to hide the place where it was mended, I used to fold it suitably before putting it on. Time passed like that. What do we need? Such were those days!” said Bhagavan.

It was quite natural for him to tell us all this but we who heard him felt deeply grieved. Having heard this incident from Bhagavan some time back, Muruganar is reported to have written a verse. The purport of that verse is: “Oh, Venkata Ramana, who wore a kowpinam mended by a thorn, and who was served by Indra as a towel with a thousand eyes.”

Letter 35

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2nd February, 1946
Two years back, when our elder brother came to the Ashram, Mr. Manne Venkataramayya, retired Judge, was here. It seems he was sick some time back and got cured, but not completely. After listening to the details of the sickness from early morning till 8-30 p.m., Bhagavan said, “Yes, indeed! The body itself is a disease. If the body gets a disease, it means that the original disease has got another disease. If you really want this new disease not to trouble you, you must first take the required medicine for the original disease so that the later disease --- that is, the disease of the disease --- does not affect you. What is the use of worrying about the secondary disease instead of trying to find out a method of getting rid of the primary disease? Therefore allow this new disease to go its own way, and think of a medicine for the original disease.” As an illustration of this, an incident happened recently.

Being requested and encouraged by the devotees, Viswanatha Brahmachari translated into Tamil prose Trisulapura Mahatmyam from Sanskrit. By the time he finished translating it, Bhagavan was slightly ill and so, being afraid that Bhagavan might strain himself unduly by going through the book with a view to correcting it, the fact that the book was ready for printing was kept from him. Before he recovered completely, Bhagavan happened to see Viswanath one day and asked him, “How far have you got on with translating Mahatmyam?” Unwilling to tell a lie to Bhagavan, he said he had completed it. “Why did you not bring it then?” asked Bhagavan. Viswanath replied that he did not do so because of Bhagavan’s indisposition. “Oh, I see! If my body is not well, what does it matter to me? Let it have its troubles.

I don’t bother about it. I am free. Bring it, and I will go through it. If this body required any services, all these people will attend to that. Bring the book,” said Bhagavan. As he had no other alternative, Viswanath brought the book and gave it, and Bhagavan went through it immediately, even working at nights with the aid of a table lamp. His bodily ailment did not interfere with the work.

Letter 34

(34) BOOKS
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1st February, 1946
One morning in 1944, a disciple approached Bhagavan with an air of supplication and said, “Bhagavan, I would like to read books and find out a path whereby I can attain mukti, but I do not know how to read. What shall I do? How can I realise mukti?” Bhagavan said, “What does it matter if you are illiterate? It is enough if you know your own Self.”

“All people here are reading books, but I am not able to do that. What shall I do?” he said.

Stretching out his hand towards the disciple, Bhagavan said, “What do you think the book is teaching? You see yourself and then see me. It is like asking you to see yourself in a mirror. The mirror shows only what is on the face. If you see the mirror after washing your face, the face will appear to be clean. Otherwise the mirror will say there is dirt here, come back after washing. A book does the same thing. If you read the book after realising the Self, everything will be easily understood. If you read it before realising the Self, you will see ever so many defects. It will say, ‘First set yourself right and then see me.’ That is all. First see your Self. Why do you worry yourself about all that book learning?” The disciple was satisfied and went away encouraged.

Another disciple who has the courage to ask questions on such matters, took up the thread of the conversation and said, “Bhagavan, you have given him a peculiar interpretation.” Bhagavan replied, “What is peculiar in it? It is all true. What books did I read when I was young? What did I learn from others? I was always immersed in meditation. After some time, Palaniswamy used to bring from various people a number of books containing Vedantic literature and used to read them. He used to make many mistakes in reading. He was elderly and was not well-read.

He was however anxious to read. He used to read with tenacity and religious faith. Because of that I used to feel happy. So, when I took those books in order to read them myself, and tell him what was in them, I found that what all was written therein had already been experienced by myself.

I was surprised. I wondered, ‘What is all this? It is already written here in these books about myself.’ That was so in every one of those books. As whatever is written there has already been experienced by myself, I used to understand the text in no time. What took him twenty days to read, I used to finish reading in two days. He used to return the books and bring others. That was how I came to know about what was written in the books.”

One of the disciples said, “That is perhaps why Sivaprakasam Pillai, while writing Bhagavan’s biography, referred to Bhagavan even at the outset as ‘One who is a Brahma Jnani without knowing the name of Brahman’.” Bhagavan said: “Yes, Yes, that is right. That is why it is said that one should first know about oneself before reading a book. If that is done, it will be known that what is written in the book is only an epitome of what is really experienced by oneself. If one does not see one’s Self but reads a book, one finds a number of defects.” “Is it possible for all to become like Bhagavan? The use of a book at least helps one to set right one’s defects,” said the disciple. “That is so. I did not say that reading is no help. I merely said that there is no need for illiterate people to think they can never attain moksha on that account and thereby feel disheartened. See how depressed he was when he asked me. If the facts are not explained properly, he will feel still further depressed,” said Bhagavan.

Letter 33

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31st January, 1946
This morning after reading an article in the newspaper about paths beyond the sun and the higher worlds, Bhagavan said, “They write a lot about the paths beyond the sun and other planets, and the blissful worlds above them. All those worlds also are like this world. There is nothing specially great about them. Here, a song is being transmitted over the radio. Last time, it was from Madras. Now it is from Tiruchirapalli. If you tune again it will be from Mysore. All these places are in Tiruvannamalai, within this short time. It is the same way with the other worlds. You have only to turn your minds to them. You can see them all in one moment.

But what is the use? You merely go about from place to place get tired and disgusted. Where is shanti (peace)? If you want it, you must know the eternal truth. If you cannot know that, the mind will not get absorbed in shanti.” Similarly someone enquired of Bhagavan some time back, “People talk of Vaikunta, Kailasa, Indraloka, Chandraloka, etc. Do they really exist?” Bhagavan replied, “Certainly. You can rest assured that they all exist. There also a Swami like me will be found seated on a couch and disciples will also be seated around him. They will ask something and he will say something in reply. Everything will be more or less like this.

What of that? If one sees Chandraloka, he will ask for Indraloka, and after Indraloka, Vaikunta and after Vaikunta, Kailasa, and so on, and the mind goes on wandering. Where is shanti? If shanti is required, the only correct method of securing it is by Self-enquiry. Through Self-enquiry, Self-realisation is possible. If one realises the Self, one can see all these worlds within one’s self. The source of everything is one’s own Self, and if one realises the Self, one will not find anything different from the Self. Then these questions will not arise. There may or may not be a Vaikunta or a Kailasa but it is a fact that you are here, isn’t it? How are you here? Where are you? After you know about these things, you can think of all those worlds.”

Letter 32

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30th January, 1946
For the last four days Bhagavan has been going through Sri Ramana Leela (in Telugu) which has recently been received from the printers. Seeing in it the translation of one of Avvaiyar’s songs, he said it was not correct. It had been written thus: “Oh, stomach! You will not go without food even for one day, nor will you take enough for two days at a time. You have no idea of the trouble I have on your account, Oh, wretched stomach! It is impossible to get on with you!” He said that it was not correct and that it should be: “You don’t stop eating for a day even. Why won’t you eat once in two days? You do not realise my difficulty even for a day. So the jiva says, ‘Oh, stomach! It is difficult to get on with you’!” People like us are afraid of death. Why? Because the belief that we are the body is not gone yet. To those who know the real truth about the Self, the body itself is a burden.

So long as the two are together, some effort is inevitable for eating and sleeping. Even that is a disturbance to the bliss enjoyed by such people, just as the clothes we wear appear to be a burden in midsummer. Under such circumstances, any effort at serving such people will perhaps be like asking them to put on a full suit when they are anxious to remove even the existing clothing on account of the distress caused by continuous perspiration. The jiva says that it is difficult to carry on with this stomach. Instead of that, Bhagavan has given a different meaning to the verse. According to him the stomach itself tells the jiva it is difficult to carry on with it! See the beauty of it: “O, jiva! You don’t give me, the stomach, even a moment’s respite. You don’t understand my troubles.

It is impossible to live with you.” That means, the jiva does not stop breathing even for a moment. So the stomach says, it is difficult to live with it indeed! When I read this letter before Bhagavan, a Tamil disciple after learning what it was all about said, “Avvaiyar’s song is well known but Bhagavan’s interpretation is novel. No one else has shown such consideration for the stomach. It is not known in what context Bhagavan wrote thus.” Smilingly Bhagavan said, “On a full-moon day in the month of Chitra we were all sitting together after a hearty meal with sweets and the like. As we had our food that day later than usual, we were feeling rather tired. Amongst us, Somasundaraswami sang the venba written by Avvaiyar, lying down in the hall, rolling about and patting his stomach. I wrote this venba in fun and sang it. What has been read just now is the meaning of those two songs.”

Letter 31

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27th January, 1946
You have seen the decorations made in the shrine of Mathrubhuteswara on the first day of Navarathri festival last year. There was a different type of decoration every day during those nine days, and on one of the days, in accordance with the Puranic story that Amba went out to do tapas as she could not bear the separation from Siva, the idol of Amba was decorated suitably and was put in the shade of a tree. After the night meal was over that day, Bhagavan was taken to that place and was shown that idol.

Next morning, in the hall, while talking about the ornamentation in the temple of Arunachaleswara and in this shrine, Bhagavan said, “Yesterday’s ornamentation was intended to show that Amba was doing tapas. Unable to bear the separation, she goes out to do tapas (penance) here.

Parvati is depicted as sitting in a stylish pose under a tree to do tapas, wearing a silk saree, gold jewels and flower garlands. What our people do is always like this. Tapas means meditation connected with the practice of self-denial or bodily mortification, does it not? Amba is reported to have closed the eyes of Siva with both her hands for fun, and to expiate that sin, Parameswara asked her to perform penance, and so she left her husband, went to a lonely place, and in self-mortification, forgot about her body, became weak and with great austerity, performed tapas. See the way Amba is decorated to depict that story. She is dressed like a Maharani with diamonds and emeralds and gold ornaments and wearing a silk saree and flower garlands!”

Letter 30

(30) ANGER
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26th January, 1946
Yesterday a newly arrived Andhra youth told Bhagavan about the vagaries of his senses to which Bhagavan said, “All that is due to the mind. Set it right.” “That is all right, Swami, but however much I try to reduce this anger, it comes on again and again. What shall I do?” said the poor boy.

“Oh! Is that so, then get angry with that anger; it will be all right” said Bhagavan. All people in the hall burst out laughing. A person who gets angry with everything in the world, if only he introspects, and enquires why he does not get angry with his anger itself, will he not really overcome all anger? Two or three years back a devotee who could freely approach Bhagavan came and told him five or six times that somebody had been abusing him. Bhagavan listened but said nothing. As there was no response from Bhagavan in spite of repeated and varied complaints and in a number of ways, this devotee could not contain himself any longer and so said, “When I am abused so much unnecessarily, I also get angry. However much I try to restrain my anger I am not able to do so. What shall I do?” Bhagavan laughingly said, “What should you do? You too join him and abuse yourself; then it will be all right.” All laughed.

That devotee, unable to understand anything, said “That is very good! Should I abuse myself?” “Yes indeed! What they are abusing is your body, isn’t it? What greater enemy is there than this body which is the abode of anger and similar feelings? It is necessary that we ourselves should hate it. Instead of that, when we are unguarded, if anybody abuses us, we should know that they are waking us up. We should realise at least then, and join them in abusing the body, and crying it down. What is the use of counter-abuse? Those who abuse us that way should be looked upon as our friends. It is good for us to be among such people. If you are among people who praise you, you get deceived,” said Bhagavan.

In June 1924, thieves entered the Ashram and not only belaboured the devotees, but also beat Bhagavan on his thigh.

Subsequently, while relating amongst themselves the thrashing they had received, the devotees said, “Bad fellows, they beat even Bhagavan.” Bhagavan is reported to have said, “Oh, you all worship me with flowers and they worshipped me with a stick. That is also a form of worship.

If I accept yours, should I not accept theirs as well?” What he teaches is by practical illustration. Is not this such an instance?

Letter 29

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23rd January, 1946
Some time back, while replying to the questions of some devotees, Bhagavan was reminded of a sloka in Hamsa Gita, which described the attributes of a siddha (highly developed soul), and with great enthusiasm he wrote out the verse in Tamil. As Balarama Reddy who happened to be there said, “What about a verse in Telugu also?” Bhagavan wrote a translation in Telugu in Aataveladi (a form of versification) and was wondering whether the import of the sloka had come out correctly. I suggested in a low tone that it might perhaps be better if it were in Theta Gita (another form of versification).

“Yes, it could be changed thus,” said Bhagavan; “That is Aata, this is Theta.” I was rather intrigued by that saying.

When I went there again in the afternoon at 2-30 p.m., Bhagavan had already written it in Theta Gita verse and gave it to me saying, “See if it is all right.” Though it did not appear smooth-flowing, I was happy in the thought that Bhagavan had written it and so without going deeper into it, I said, “In whatever way Bhagavan writes, to me it appears quite good.” “It is quite enough even if one person is satisfied when written by an unqualified person like myself,” said Bhagavan. People around burst out laughing. He says he is not learned, and all the other writers are great pandits! What else is it except a mild reproach to some of us who pride ourselves on our erudition? It did not end there. Saying that the meaning is incomplete here or the grammar is defective there, Bhagavan discussed it the whole day with Balarama Reddy, and when I went there yesterday morning for parayana, he gave me a paper on which the padyam (verse) had been fair-copied.

When I brought it home and saw it, not only did I feel some doubt regarding the correctness of a particular letter in the padyam, but also got a desire to copy the matter in the Ashram note book and keep the original paper for myself and so, I cut it out neatly with scissors, and put it in my bag and went to the Ashram by 8 a.m.

Even as I was prostrating before him, Bhagavan made a mention of the very letter about which I had a doubt. He said, “It must be changed, give me back my paper. Should I not show it if anyone were to ask for it?” Yes, he could divine what I had in my mind. I felt surprised.

Many instances of this kind have occurred previously.

When Bhagavan asked me and insisted on the return of his paper like a school boy, I felt ashamed of my desire, was afraid of being chided, and amused at his teasing words -- all simultaneously.

“I have brought it, here it is,” I said and gave it. He took it, and put it away carefully as though it was a great treasure. The whole of yesterday he kept on saying that the grammar was not correct. When I was asked about it, I said, “For the divine voice, will the grammar come in the way?” Bhagavan said laughingly, “It is all right,” and ultimately Bhagavan himself prepared it in Theta Gita and gave it to me to copy it out on the distinct understanding that I should return the original paper to him. For a small thing like this, he played with us for three days and ultimately finished the verse in Theta Gita.

“That is Aata (play); this is Theta (verse).” This is perhaps the meaning of his words. That verse is given hereunder:

Letter 28

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22nd January, 1946
Yesterday or the day before, a boy of about 18 years of age came here on a cycle from some place. After sitting in the hall for a quarter of an hour, he went to Bhagavan and asked, “After crossing Omkar, where to merge?”

With a smile Bhagavan said, “Oh, is that so? Wherefrom did you come now? Where will you go? What is it you want to know? Who really are you? If you first tell me who you are, you can then question me about Omkar.”

“I do not know that even,” said the boy. Then Bhagavan said, “You know for certain that you are existent. How are you existent? Where really were you before? What exactly is your body? First find that out. When you know all that, you can ask me questions if you still have any doubts. Why should we worry where Omkar merges, and after it merges why worry about what comes next, when it ceases to exist? Where do you merge ultimately? How do you come back? If you first find out your state and your movements, we can think of the rest.” When Bhagavan said all this, the boy could not give any reply and so went away after bowing before Bhagavan.

What other brahmasthram (divine weapon) is there against aquestioner? If only that weapon is used, the questioner is silenced.

You may ask, “Who gave the name of ‘brahmasthram’ to the stock reply of Bhagavan, ‘Find out who you are?’.” Two or three years back, when a sannyasi boasted about having read all books on religious matters and began asking Bhagavan all sorts of questions, he repeatedly gave the same answer, “Find out who you are.” When the sannyasi persisted in his meaningless questions and arguments, Bhagavan in a firm tone asked him, “You have been asking me so many questions and entering into so many arguments. Why don’t you reply to my questions and then argue? Who you are? First answer my question. Then I will give you a suitable reply. Tell me first who it is that is arguing.” He could not reply, and so went away.

Some time later, I developed this idea and wrote five verses on ‘Divya Asthram’ and showed them to Bhagavan, when he said, “Long ago when Nayana (Ganapati Muni) was here, Kapali also used to be here. If they wanted to ask me anything, they would fold their hands first and say, ‘Swami, Swami, if you will promise not to brandish your brahmasthram, I will ask a question.’ If during conversation the words ‘Who are you?’ escaped my lips, he used to say, ‘So you have fired your brahmasthram. What more can I say?’ They called it brahmasthram and you are calling it ‘Divya Asthram’.” After that, I too started using the word brahmasthram. Really, who is not humbled by that asthram?

Letter 27

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21st January, 1946
When I was writing to you yesterday about eating popcorn with boiled rice, I was reminded of another incident.

Echamma’s cooking was never very good; it would not contain vegetables and spices in proper proportions. To Bhagavan her devotion was more tasty than her preparations and so he never complained, but some who could not relish the food casually hinted at this now and then while Bhagavan was cutting vegetables in the kitchen in the early morning hours. After hearing their complaints repeatedly Bhagavan said, “I don’t know. If you do not like the food you need not eat it. I find it quite good and I shall continue to do so.” Sometime back, she was sending food for about a week or ten days through someone else because perhaps she was out of town or not quite well. The cooks one day forgot to serve the food sent by her and completed serving all other items of food cooked in the Ashram. Bhagavan who would usually beckon to others to start eating and would himself commence doing so, sat silently that day with his left hand under the chin, and his right hand on the leaf. The people there sitting in front began to look at one another and those in the kitchen, or wondering and enquiring in whispers about the possible reason. Suddenly they remembered that the food sent by Echamma had not been served and, when they served it saying, “Oh, we have forgotten,” he gave the formal signal to the others to eat and he too commenced eating the food.

It is usual for him to eat with greater relish the raw groundnuts offered to him by a devotee than the highly seasoned sweets and puddings offered by rich people, just as Lord Krishna ate with relish the beaten rice handed over to him by Kuchela.

Letter 26

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20th January, 1946
When the personal attendants of Bhagavan were advised by doctors to give him food containing vitamins to relieve the pain in the legs they began doing so and were also massaging his legs with some special ointment. They were thus serving him to the best of their ability. Bhagavan used to say humorously, “A guest comes to your house. If you are indifferent towards him he will go away early, but if you show great respect towards him, and are very attentive he will never go. So is disease. If you attend to the disease in the manner you are doing now, why should it go? If you take no notice of it, it will disappear of its own accord.” Sometime ago, a young man set up an establishment about a mile from the Ashram, on the road round the hill, saying he would cure diseases by giving vibhuti. People get mad over such things, don’t they? People who were diseased, possessed and the like started going in crowds to see that Vibhuti Swami, and on their way, they used to come to our Ashram also. What is there at this Ashram? No vibhuti! No magic lockets! They used to have darshan and then go away.

On such occasions, if any attendants happened to be massaging his legs with medicated oil, Bhagavan used to say in a lighter vein, “Excellent, this is also good in a way. When these people see me thus, they would say, ‘this Swami himself is suffering from pains in the legs and is getting massaged by others. What can he do for us?’ and go away without coming anywhere near me. So far so good.” Four days back, Bhagavan called all the doctors and showed them a news item which he read in the newspapers about a person who was reported to have died as a result of too much of vitamin food and vitamin injections. Next day the news appeared in another newspaper. Showing it again, he began saying, like a child, “For the last two years, a lot of vitamins are being given to me, saying that it is all good for my body. Not satisfied with it, they tried to give injections also. See what has happened to this person reported in the newspapers!” It is said that a great yogi enjoys bliss as if he were a little boy or an insane person. He knows everything but conducts himself as if he knows nothing. If he so desires, cannot Bhagavan cure all diseases? Can he not cure himself? He leaves it to others; that is because he never looks upon the body as his own.

Two or three years back when Bhagavan had jaundice, he could not relish his food and felt a great dislike for food.

For about a week or ten days he ate only popcorns and the like. As Echamma and Mudaliar Patti have a vow that they will not eat until Bhagavan takes at least a morsel of food cooked by them he used to take a few grains from the rice brought by these ladies and mixing them with popcorn, used somehow swallow that food so that their vratam or deeksha might remain unimpaired. There is no limit to his benevolence and consideration for the feelings of his devotees, whatever the occasion might be. He does not allow others to feel hurt or aggrieved in any manner.

A number of doctors were giving him medicines to cure the jaundice. For their satisfaction, Bhagavan used to take the medicines and for the satisfaction of these ladies he used to eat their food. The good effects of the former and the bad effects of the latter neutralised themselves. Months passed by; the jaundice persisted. A reputed doctor from Madras was called. The result was the same. After all had come and gone, and after all medicines had been tried without success, he cured himself of jaundice in no time with sonti (dry ginger), pippalu (ipecac) and other Ayurvedic herbal medicines. Let any one venture to ask him how the disease was cured!

Letter 25

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18th January, 1946
About a year ago, some person who was rearing two baby cheetahs brought them into Bhagavan’s presence. When they were fondled and given milk, not only did they move freely amongst the people in the hall, but they got on to the sofa with Bhagavan’s welcome and slept soundly thereon.

One of the Ashram devotees took a photo of that unusual group. From about 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Bhagavan confined himself to one end of the sofa keeping the cubs on the sofa in the same position all the time. They woke up afterwards and were there till about 4 p.m., moving about freely in the hall. Once again, before Bhagavan went up the hill at the usual time, photos were taken with the cheetah cubs on the sofa and also on the table in front of the sofa. They were published in the Sunday Times later.

The wonder of it was that even the cheetah cubs lay down happily on the sofa, overpowered by sleep induced by the touch of Bhagavan’s hands. While they were there, the squirrels came and ate nuts and the sparrows came and ate broken rice, as usual. In olden days, when animals and birds of all sorts moved about together without enmity in any place, people used to think that it was perhaps a Rishi Ashram.

There are stories like this related in the Puranas. But here we see the same thing before our very eyes. When I read out to Bhagavan yesterday’s incident about the pigeons, and the worship of the cow, Bhagavan said, “Many similar things often happened here previously. But who was there to record them at that time?” When the first edition of this book (in Telugu) came out and was being read in the presence of Bhagavan, one of the devotees who heard the above story said, addressing him, “Is it a fact that when you were in Pachiamman Koil somebody got frightened and ran away from an approaching tiger there?” Bhagavan said, “Yes, yes! When I was there, Rangaswami Iyengar used to come off and on. One day, when he went to answer calls of nature it seems he saw a tiger in a bush. When he tried to drive her away by shouting, she replied by a mild roar. His body shook with terror and getting up involuntarily from where he sat, he began running towards me gasping for breath, and shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Oh, Bhagavan! Ramana! Ramana!’ I happened to come out for some work and so met him. When I asked him what all his fright was about, he said imploringly, ‘Ayyo, tiger, tiger! Come, Swami, we must go into the temple and close all the doors, otherwise she will come in. Why don’t you come?’ I said, laughing, ‘Let us wait and see. Where is the tiger? It is nowhere.’ Pointing towards the bush he said, ‘There it is in that bush.’ I said, ‘You wait here. I will go and see.’ When I went there and saw, there was no tiger. Still, he could not shed his fear. I assured him that it was a harmless animal and there was no need to be afraid, but he would not believe me. Another day, while I was sitting on the edge of the tank opposite the temple, that tiger came to drink water, and without any fear, roamed about for a while looking at me, and went its way. Iyengar, however, observed all this, hiding himself in the temple. He was afraid of what might happen to me. After the tiger left, I went into the temple and relieved him of his fear saying, ‘Look! What a mild animal it is! If we threaten it, it will attack us. Not otherwise.’ I thus dispelled his fears. We too were not there for long after that,” said Bhagavan.

Letter 24

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17th January, 1946
One morning about September or October 1945, a devotee from Bangalore, by name Venkataswami Naidu, brought a pair of pigeons and gave them to the Ashram as an offering. Seeing that, Bhagavan said, “We have to protect them from cats, etc., is it not? Who will look after them? A cage is required, food must be given. Who will do all that here? It is better for him to take them away.” The devotee said he would make all the required arrangements and requested that they should be kept in the Ashram. He placed the pair of pigeons in Bhagavan’s lap.

With overflowing affection and love, Bhagavan drew them near him, saying, “Come dears! Come! You won’t go back? You wish to stay on here? All right, stay on; a cage will be coming.” As he thus petted them with affection, they became absolutely quiet, closed their eyes as if they were in samadhi, and stayed on there without moving this way or that.

Bhagavan thereupon keeping them on his lap stopped petting them, and with his gracious eyes fixed on them, sat in silence, deeply immersed in samadhi.

It took nearly an hour for the devotees in the Ashram to find and bring a cage for them. The wonder of it is, all through that one hour, the pigeons sat in Bhagavan’s lap without moving one way or the other as if they were a pair of yogis in samadhi. What could we say about their good fortune? Is it not the result of their punya in previous births that this great sage should seat them on his lap, cajole them by patting them from the head down to the feet with his hands, bless them and thereby bestow on them divine bliss? Not only that, when the cage was brought in, Bhagavan patted them cajolingly and put them in the cage, saying, “Please go in. Be safe in the cage.” Then Bhagavan said, “In the Bhagavatham, pigeons also are stated to be in the hierarchy of Gurus, in the chapter relating to Yadu Samvadam. I remember having read that story long ago.” While the pigeons were on his lap, one devotee came and asked, “What is this?” Bhagavan said, without attachment but assuming responsibility, “Who knows? They come, and decline to go back. They say they will stay here only. Another family has come up on me, as if what I already have is not enough.” Dear brother, it is very interesting to witness these strange happenings. It is said that in olden days Emperor Bharatha renounced the world and performed great tapas (meditation), but towards the end of his life he could think only of his pet deer and so was born a deer in his next life.

In Vedanta Sastras, in the Bharatham and Bhagavatham there are many stories like this. Bhagavan had told us long ago: “Any living being that comes to me, it is only to work out the balance of its karma. So don’t prevent anyone from coming to me.” When I looked at those pigeons, it occurred to me that they might be great saints who had fallen from their austerity in meditation; otherwise, how could they get into the lap of Bhagavan, a privilege which is impossible for ordinary people? In canto V of Bhagavatham there is a verse which says that people born in Bharatavarsha are blessed, since Hari has come there a number of times as an avatar and blessed them by His precepts, help and guidance. The above incident is an illustration of this, is it not? What do you say?

Letter 23

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16th January, 1946
You know yesterday was the animal Festival of Cows, Mattu Pongal. On that day, all over the country, domestic animals are decorated and fed with pongal. In the Ashram also yesterday morning, several varieties of sweetmeats were prepared and, with garlands made of those sweetmeats, puja to Nandi was performed by drawing ornamental lines with lime powder before the cowshed, by tying plantain trees around the pillars, by hanging garlands of green leaves, by bathing all the cows, by placing tilakam (vermilion marks) on their foreheads and garlands around their necks, and by feeding them with pongal. Finally puja was performed to the chanting of mantras and the breaking of coconuts.

Lakshmi is the queen amongst the cows, is she not? You should have seen her grandeur! Her forehead was smeared with turmeric powder, and adorned with Kumkum.

Around her neck and horns were hung garlands made of roses and several other flowers, as also those made of edibles, and sweets. Besides these, garlands made out of bananas, sugarcane pieces and coconut kernels were put around her neck. Not satisfied with these, the person in charge of the animals brought from his own house another garland made out of some savoury preparation like murukku and placed it on the neck of Lakshmi. When Niranjananandaswami asked him what it was for, he replied with justifiable pride that that was his mamool (yearly custom) to do so. When I saw Lakshmi thus decorated like Kamadhenu, I was overjoyed and felt extremely happy.

Bhagavan, who went out at 9-45 a.m., came to the Gosala (cowshed) at 10 a.m. to shower his blessings on his children there. While he sat on a chair by the side of Lakshmi, enjoying the sight of the beautiful decorations on her, the devotees did arati with camphor, chanted Vedic hymns such as “Na Karmana” etc. Some devotees said that they would take a photo of Lakshmi. She was then led into the middle of the Gosala after asking the devotees who had gathered into a big group, to step aside. Lakshmi stood there, tossing her head in a graceful manner. Bhagavan also got up, came, and stood by the side of Lakshmi, patting her head and body with his left hand. And when he said, “Steady, please, be steady,” Lakshmi slowly closed her eyes and remained absolutely quiet as if she were in a samadhi (trance). Sri Ramana then placed his left hand on her back, and with his walking stick in his right, stood in a dignified manner by the side of Lakshmi, when the photographer took two or three photos. One must see that sight to appreciate its grandeur fully. Another photo was taken when Bhagavan was feeding her with his own hands fruits and sweetmeats. You can see the photos when you come here. I was reminded of Lord Krishna in Repalle when I saw the grand spectacle of Bhagavan standing in the midst of the cows in the Gosala. Not only this, in the Brahma Vaivartha Purana it is stated that Krishna is the Paramatma, the Lord of the cow world, and that Radha is Prakriti. The theory in that Purana is that Radha and Madhava are Prakriti and Purusha — the inseparable pair. Standing with his body bent slightly to the left, and with his left hand on Lakshmi, and with the walking stick in his right hand, looking as if it was a flute, with a sparkling smile on his face like the foam on the waves of the ocean of ananda, with a compassionate look towards the group of devotees that had gathered along with the herd of cows. It is no surprise if in Sri Ramana, the embodiment of grace, one were reminded of Lord Krishna Himself, standing with crossed legs, resting on his toes and playing exquisitely on the flute. If that Krishna is Ramana, what are we to say of our Lakshmi who appears to have been completely oblivious of this world with her ears hanging down, with her eyes closed and enjoying transcendental bliss caused by the touch of Bhagavan’s hands on her body? Shall I say that she is the embodiment of Prakriti in the shape of Radha? Otherwise, how could she understand human language? It is no exaggeration to say that we, with human eyes, saw in that congregation what is beyond human sight — a world of cows, and its overlords, Prakriti and Purusha. You would perhaps laugh at my foolish fantasies, but take it from me, that sight was so lovely. Every year this worship of the cow is being performed, but this year Bhagavan gave us this blissful darshan by standing by the side of Lakshmi, because the devotees said that they would take a photo of Lakshmi.

What a great day! I am writing to you, because I just could not contain my joy.

Letter 22

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8th January, 1946
A few days ago, a lady, a recent arrival, came into the hall at about 3 p.m. and sat down. All the time she was there, she was trying to get up and ask something of Sri Bhagavan.

As Bhagavan appeared not to have noticed her, and was reading a book, she waited for a while. As soon as Bhagavan put the book aside, she got up, approached the sofa and said without any fear or hesitation, “Swami, I have only one desire. May I tell you what it is?” “Yes,” said Bhagavan, “What do you want?” “I want moksha,” she said. “Oh, is that so?” remarked Bhagavan. “Yes, Swamiji, I do not want anything else. Is it enough if you give me moksha,” said she. Suppressing a smile that had almost escaped his lips, Bhagavan said, “Yes, yes, that is all right; that is good.” “It will not do if you say that you will give it sometime later. You must give it to me here and now,” she said. “It is all right,” said Bhagavan.

“Will you give it now? I must be going,” said she. Bhagavan nodded.

As soon as she left the hall, Bhagavan burst out laughing and said, turning towards us, “She says that it is enough if only moksha is given to her. She does not want anything else.” Subbalakshmamma, who was seated by my side, took up the thread of the conversation and quietly said, “We have come and are staying here for the same purpose. We do not want anything more. It is enough if you give us moksha.”

“If you renounce, and give up everything, what remains is only moksha. What is there for others to give you? It is there always.

That is,” said Bhagavan. “We do not know all that. Bhagavan himself must give us moksha.” So saying she left the hall.

Looking at the attendants who were by his side, Bhagavan remarked, “I should give them moksha, they say. It is enough if moksha alone is given to them. Is not that itself a desire? If you give up all the desires that you have, what remains is only moksha. And you require sadhana to get rid of all those desires.” The same bhava (idea) is found in Maharatnamala:

वासनातानवं ब्रह्म मोक्ष इत्यभिधीयते

It is said that the complete destruction of vasanas is Brahmam and moksha.

Letter 21

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4th January, 1946
People occasionally bring to Bhagavan prasad consisting of Vibhuti (holy ashes) and Kumkum (vermilion) from various places such as Tiruchendur, Madurai and Rameswaram.

Bhagavan accepts it with the greatest reverence saying,

“Look, Subrahmanya from Tiruchendur has come. See there, Meenakshi from Madurai has come. Here is Ramalingeswara from Rameswaram. Here is this God, there is that God.”

Others bring holy water saying, “This is from the Ganga, that is from the Gouthami, this is from the Cauvery, that is from the Krishna.” Whenever such water is brought in Bhagavan accepts it, saying, “Here is Mother Ganga, there is Gouthami, this is the Cauvery and that is Krishnaveni.” At first this used to puzzle me. When Ramana himself is the embodiment of that Eternal Being, who is the origin of all thirthas (holy waters) and who is shining in his abode as himself, how foolish of these people to bring him prasad of water from thirthas as if they had done a great thing! Are they mad? I wondered!

Sometime back someone brought sea water (sagara thirtha). Bhagavan accepted it saying, “Upto now all the rivers have come to me, but not the sagara, the ocean. This is the first time it has come. That is very good. Give it here.” When I heard that, I suddenly remembered all the ancient lore where it is stated that all thirthas (rivers), samudras (seas) and devatas go to such Sages as Ramana to pay respects to their lotus feet. I then used to feel that they were all hyperboles because stones and waters cannot walk to the places where great people live. But now, what I find is that without anybody desiring it, all these holy waters, holy ashes and the like are brought by bhaktas and Bhagavan accepts them, saying, “They have come.” I could now see from incidents that occur in the immediate presence of the Mahatmas that one should read the inner meaning of things carefully. If that is done, it becomes clear that dharma is one thing and dharma-sukshma (the underlying principle of dharma) is another.

Since Bhagavan accepts all these waters with evident pleasure, it should be interpreted as his accepting the service of all thirthas and prasadas. This inner meaning occurred to me when sagara thirtha, i.e., holy water from the sea, was brought in. You remember that when he was living in a cave Bhagavan said when a leopard came, “Many who belong to the class of siddhas (realised souls) come to see me in different forms.”

Letter 20

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3rd January, 1946

Do you know how much liberty our brother squirrel has with Bhagavan? Two or three years back, there used to be one very active and mischievous fellow amongst the squirrels. One day it so happened that when he came for food, Bhagavan was reading and otherwise occupied and so delayed a bit in giving him food. That mischievous fellow would not eat anything unless Bhagavan himself held it to his mouth. Perhaps because of his anger at the delay he abruptly bit Bhagavan’s finger, but Bhagavan still did not offer him food. Bhagavan was amused and said, “You are a naughty creature! You have bit my finger! I will no longer feed you. Go away!” So saying he stopped feeding the squirrel for some days.

Would that fellow stay quiet? No, he began begging of Bhagavan for forgiveness by crawling hither and thither.

Bhagavan put the nuts on the window sill and on the sofa and told him to help himself. But no, he wouldn’t even touch them. Bhagavan pretended to be indifferent and not to notice.

But he would crawl up to Bhagavan’s legs, jump on his body, climb on his shoulders and do ever so many things to attract attention. Then Bhagavan told us all, “Look, this fellow is begging me to forgive him his mischief in biting my finger and to give up my refusal to feed him with my own hands.” He pushed the squirrel away for some days saying, “Naughty creature! Why did you bite my finger? I won’t feed you now. That is your punishment. Look, the nuts are there. Eat them all.” The squirrel would not give up his obstinacy either. Some days passed and Bhagavan had finally to admit defeat because of his mercy towards devotees. It then occurred to me that it was through pertinacity that devotees attained salvation.

That squirrel did not stop at that. He gathered together a number of his gang and began building a nest in the roof of the hall exactly above the sofa. They began squeezing into the beam bits of string, coconut fibre and the like.

Whenever there was wind, those things used to fall down; so people got angry and began to drive them away. Bhagavan however used to feel very grieved at the thought that there was not sufficient room for the squirrels to build a nest and that the people in the hall were driving them away. We have only to see Bhagavan’s face on such occasions to understand the depth of his love and affection for such beings.

When I told Bhagavan that I had written to you about the squirrels in my usual letter, he remarked with evident pleasure: “There is a big story about these squirrels. Some time back they used to have a nest near the beam above me.

They had children and then grand children and thus the members of their family grew very large. They used to play about on this sofa in whatever way they liked. When I went out for my usual walk, some little squirrels used to hide under the pillow and when on my return, I reclined on the pillow, they used to get crushed. We could not bear the sight of this, and so Madhava drove the squirrels out of the nest and sealed it by nailing some wooden boards over it. There are lots of incidents about them if one cared to write them.”

Letter 19

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2nd January, 1946
You have seen Jagadiswara Sastri, haven’t you? When he was here, a dog used to go into the hall with him. It was a particularly intelligent dog. When Sastri or his wife came into Bhagavan’s hall, it used to come in and sit like a well- behaved child and go out along with them. It was very keen on living in the house. People did whatever they could to prevent it entering the hall but it was no use.

Once the old couple entrusted it to somebody when they went to Madras and did not return for 15 days. At first, during the first four or five days, it used to search in the halls go round the hall, and then go about all the places which they used to frequent. Having got tired, perhaps disgusted, with those fruitless efforts, one morning at about 10 o’clock it came to Bhagavan’s sofa and stood there, staring fixedly at Bhagavan.

At that time I was sitting in the front row. Bhagavan was reading the paper. Krishnaswami and others tried to send the dog out by threats, but in vain. I too asked it to go out. No, it wouldn’t move. Bhagavan’s attention was diverted by this hubbub and he looked that way. Bhagavan observed for a while the look of the dog and our excitement. He then put the paper aside and, as if he had by his silence understood the language of the dog, waved his hand towards it and said, “Why, what is the matter? You are asking where your people have gone? Oh, I see, I understand. They have gone to Madras. They will be back in a week. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be worried. Be calm. Is it all right? Now, go.” Hardly had Bhagavan completed his instructions, when the dog turned and left the place.

Soon after that Bhagavan remarked to me, “Do you see that? The dog is asking me where its people have gone and when they are returning.

However much the people here tried to send it away it wouldn’t move until I answered its questions.” Once, it seems, the lady of the house punished the dog with a cane for something it had done and locked it up in a room for half a day. After it was let out, it came straight to Bhagavan as if to complain against her and stayed at the Ashram without going to their house for four or five days.

Bhagavan arranged to feed the dog and admonished the lady thus: “What have you done to the dog? Why is it angry with you? It came and complained to me. Why? What have you done?” Finally she admitted her fault in Bhagavan’s presence and, with a good deal of cajoling, got the dog to go home.

Letter 18

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1st January, 1946
The other day I learnt of one more incident in Bhagavan’s life on the hill and so I am writing to you about it. When Bhagavan was living in Virupaksha Cave, the roar of a leopard was heard from the place where drinking water was available nearby. By the time the scared devotees had gathered some plates and drums in order to make a noise and drive the leopard away, it had drunk the water it required and gone away with one more roar. Bhagavan looked at those frightened devotees and said to them in anadmonishing tone, “Why do you worry so much? The leopard intimated to me by the first roar that she was coming here. After drinking water she told me by another roar that she was going. She went her own way. She never meddled with your affairs. Why are you so scared? This mountain is the home of these wild animals, and we are their guests. That being so, is it right on your part to drive them away?” Perhaps with the intention of relieving them of their fears, Bhagavan added, “A number of siddha purushas (holy beings) live on this mountain. It is perhaps with a desire to see me that they come and go, assuming various shapes. Hence, you see it is not right for you to disturb them.” From that time onwards, the leopard used to come frequently to that place to drink. Whenever the roar was heard, Bhagavan used to say, “There you are! The leopard is announcing her arrival.” Then again he used to say, “The leopard announces her departure.” In this manner he used to be quite at ease with all the wild animals.

One devotee asked Bhagavan whether it is true that, when living on the mountain, he was friendly with snakes, and one snake crawled over his body, one climbed up his leg and so on. In reply, Sri Bhagavan said: “Yes, it is true. A snake used to come to me in all friendliness. It used to try to crawl on my leg. At its touch my body used to feel as though it was tickled, so I withdrew my leg; that is all. That snake used to come of its own accord and go away.”

Letter 17

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31st December, 1945
During the first week of last month, on one morning, an ignorant traveller came to the Ashram and, after staying here for two or three days, and in accordance with the saying “satra bhojanam matha nidra” (eating in choultries, sleeping in mutts) went away to eat and stay elsewhere, but was all the same coming here for some days enjoying the bliss of staying near and having the darshan of Bhagavan. Before leaving this town he approached Bhagavan one day with great hesitation and said, in humble tones, “Swami, the people sitting here always ask you something and you give them some replies. When I see that, I also feel tempted to enquire, but I do not know what to ask you. How then can I get mukti?”

Bhagavan, looking at him endearingly and smiling, said, “How do you know that you do not know anything?” He said, “After I came here and heard the questions asked by all these people and the replies Bhagavan is pleased to give them, the feeling that I do not know anything has come upon me.” “Then it is all right. You have found out that you do not know anything; that itself is enough. What more is required?” said Bhagavan. “How to attain mukti by that much alone, Swami?” said the questioner.

“Why not? There is some one to know that he does not know anything. It is sufficient if you could enquire and find out who that someone is. Ego will develop if one thinks that one knows everything. Instead of that, isn’t it much better to be conscious of the fact that you do not know anything and then enquire how you could gain moksha?” He felt happy at that and went his way. That questioner might or might not have understood the essence of that Bhagawathvani (the voice of the Lord) but, for us people here, those words were echoing in our heart of hearts like mantraksharas (letters of the gospel).

Letter 16

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30th December, 1945
One afternoon, during casual conversation, Bhagavan got into a reminiscent mood and began telling us as follows: “There used to be in Gopura Subrahmanyeswara Temple, a Mouna Swami (a silent sadhu). One morning when I was going about the Thousand-Pillared Mandapam, he came with a friend. He was a Mouna Swami and so was I.

There was no talk, no greetings. It was soon midday. He made signs to his friend to mean: “I do not know who this boy is, but he appears to be tired; please get some food and give it to him.” Accordingly they brought some. It was boiled rice. Each grain was sized. There was sour water underneath.

There was a bit of pickle to go with it. That was the first bhiksha given to me by Sri Arunachaleswara. Actually there is not an iota of pleasure in what I eat now. All the meals and sweets (pancha bhakshya paramanna) are nothing compared to that food,” said Bhagavan. “Was it on the very first day of Sri Bhagavan’s arrival in that place?” someone asked.

“No, no, the next day. Taking it as the first bhiksha given me by Ishwara, I ate that rice and pickle and drank the water given me. That happiness I can never forget,” remarked Sri Bhagavan.

“I believe there is some other story about Sri Bhagavan going to the town for the first time for bhiksha,” said one devotee.

“Yes, there used to be one lady devotee. She very often used to bring me some food or other. One day she arranged a feast for all the sadhus and pressed me to dine along with them.

I signalled her to say that I would not do so and that I would be going out begging. I had either to sit and eat with them all or go out for bhiksha. Yes, it was God’s will, I thought, and started out for bhiksha. That lady had doubts as to whether I would go out for bhiksha or join the feast. She sent a man behind me. As there was no escape I went to a house in the street to the left of the temple and standing in front of it, clapped my hands. The lady of the house saw me and, as she had already heard of me, recognized me and called me in, saying, ‘Come in, my son, come in.’ She fed me sumptuously saying, ‘My boy, I have lost a son. When I see you, you seem just like him. Do come daily like this, my boy.’ I subsequently learnt that her name was Muthamma,” said Bhagavan.

Letter 15

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29th December, 1945
On the night of Thursday, the 27th, at 2-45, Echamma, who was like a mother to Bhagavan, left her body and attained union with the Almighty at Bhagavan’s lotus feet. I feel rather gratified than sorrowful at this news. When I moved from her house to a residence near to the Ashram, she would often say, “I loved you as my child. I thought you would see me out of this world, but you have gone away to a distance. Now you will come to me only after I am dead, to see the body off to the cremation ground, won’t you?” When she said this, tears used to well up in her eyes. But it happened just as she had said. I only heard the news of her death, not of her sickness. There is a saying, “The child is firm as a rock, the mother fragile as shellac.” I am only sorry it came too true in this case.

You remember on the 25th you and your wife presented her with some clothes and she was then busy cooking for guests in the house. That same evening, she was unable to get up and so asked for water and she was given some. After drinking it, she lay quietly and so all the guests left. I am giving you the details as related by her niece who attended on her. After that drink of water she could not talk or eat, but remained bedridden. Next day this news was conveyed to Bhagavan. On the 27th her condition became serious.

Telegrams were sent to her relatives. Even though she was almost unconscious she would open her eyes slightly, when anyone called her. At about four in the afternoon one lady wanted to test how far she was really conscious. So she said, “Food does not appear to have been sent to Bhagavan today.” Immediately she heard the word “food” she opened her eyes full and, with an exclamation, cast a questioning look. So as not to disturb her peace of mind, her niece said, “We have sent it,” and she nodded her head in approval. That is real vrita deeksha (strict observance of a vow). What can one say of the great mother who would not forget her kainkarya (service) to Bhagavan, even though she was in the throes of death! That is all. At 8 o’clock that evening incoherent sounds were coming out of her mouth, her eyes were glazed and she was clearly in the pangs of death. Her niece came to Bhagavan and brought the news. The Ashram doctor went there, examined her and declared that there was no hope; and then they performed her jeevaprayaschitham (last rites).

Anyway, after the news was conveyed to Bhagavan, she had not much suffering, the breathing became easier and feebler and she passed away at 2-45 a.m. I came to know of her illness on Thursday evening and thought I could look her up the next morning but when I came to the Ashram before starting, I heard this sad news. Bhagavan said to me, “Oh, is she dead? I have been waiting to see when she would get away from all these worldly worries. So she has gone away from all these worries. All right, go there and come back.” I went there along with some devotees. I was overpowered with grief when I saw that body with the face still undimmed. She was undoubtedly a powerful personality and, when I was here alone in my early days, she was my sole support. Though much against her will, I changed my residence, she used to bring me food along with Bhagavan’s whenever I was unwell. In accordance with her previous instructions, I bathed her body in Ganges water, smeared it with vibhuti (holy ashes) and put on rudraksha beads and then saw her off on her final journey. All her relatives decided that she should be cremated, not buried.

When I prostrated before Bhagavan at 2-30 in the afternoon, he asked, “How did she die? What did they do?” I replied, “They decided on cremation. Her relatives said that she wished her ashes to be buried in her village and a samadhi erected over them with a tulsi plant for worship.” Bhagavan said, “Yes, yes, that is right. The same was done with Ganapati Sastri and others.” After I sat down, Bhagavan said in a consoling manner, “I told her quite a number of times not to worry about this food but to stop it. But no! She was adamant and refused to take food until she had served Swami. Even today food was sent to me on her account.” I said, “No more now.” “That Mudaliar old lady is still there,” said Bhagavan. When he said this I was overcome with grief and said, “Whenever Echamma gave me something to eat, she used to get angry if I did not eat it then and there.” By this time my eyes were full of tears, and saying, “Yes, yes,”Bhagavan changed the subject. The earthly life of a devotee who for thirty eight years kept this vow as her talisman and worshipped God has now come to an end.

Another interesting thing: on the evening of the 27th, after Veda Parayana and my usual pradakshina (going around the hall), when I went in to bow before Bhagavan, I saw him seated motionless in padmasana, deeply immersed in dhyana and with his hands hanging loose at his side. His eyes were glowing with radiance as if they were two celestial lights and I felt that the spiritual lustre of the universe had come down in a concentrated form in the shape of Bhagavan. I wanted to see it closer and longer but I could not stand the powerful glare and so I merely bowed and came home thinking all the while that there must be some deep significance for that deep meditative state of Bhagavan.

In the night after meals, and the subsequent short discourse with Bhagavan at his bedside, Krishna Bhikshu came to my place with a friend. When I enquired of Ashram news, he said that Bhagavan had been deeply self-absorbed with a radiant and distant look the whole evening, and that there must be something great and unusual about it. We wondered what it could be.

Subsequently when we heard the details of Echamma’s demise, we found that from 5 p.m. onwards yesterday she was in the throes of death and that at 9 p.m. when the news was communicated to Bhagavan, all her agony ceased and she had a peaceful end of her life.

Then we all thought that it was to release this great devotee from her mortal state that Bhagavan had assumed that superb radiant form the previous evening.

Letter 14

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12th December, 1945
One morning, during the usual conversations the topic turned on Bhagavan’s mother coming away to live with him and on her manner of life, and Bhagavan spoke to us as follows: “Mother began coming here frequently and staying with me for long periods. You know I always address even beasts and birds in a respectful manner. In the same way, I used to address Mother also with the respectful form of speech. It then occurred to me that I was doing something hurtful. So I gave up the practice and began addressing her in the familiar way. If a practice is natural and has become habitual you feel uncomfortable at changing it. But anyway what do these bodily things matter?” He spoke with deep feeling and my eyes filled with tears.

Before the dawn of youth appeared on his face he had relinquished all worldly desires, and with Divine desire he hastened to the holy Arunachala where he reigns in the Kingdom of Eternal Bliss. How can one speak of the enormous fortune of that mother, in having had the privilege of being called ‘Amma’ (mother) by such a son? In the Vedas, the mother holds the first claim for worship: “Mathru devo bhava” (Let mother be your God). Even so, the beauty of it is that Bhagavan felt it unnatural for him to address her in the respectful form. If he addressed her so, would she not feel hurt? She felt satisfied only if he addressed her as “Mother.” Perhaps Bhagavan felt that he ought not to wound her feelings in so small a matter.

“When my Mother passed away I thought I had escaped bondage and could freely move from place to place and live in solitude in some cave or other, but in fact I have now an even greater bondage; I cannot even move out.” Bhagavan often speaks in this way. Mother he had only one, but children he has in thousands, so is not this greater bondage? I tell you, the other day, hearing that Skandasramam was being repaired, he went there at noon, along with his attendant Rangaswami, just to see, without telling anybody, intending to return quietly. But what happened? We all went there, wild with excitement and surrounded him, and would not allow him to move. It was only with great difficulty that he managed to return with the whole crowd by about 8 p.m.

A fortnight later, the labourers reported to Bhagavan that they had finished constructing the path to Skandasramam and begged him to have a look at it.

Bhagavan said, “We shall see.” That morning we all expressed our keen desire to go there. Bhagavan cajoled us, saying, “We will all go there for a picnic some time later.” Then in the evening at about 5 o’clock he went out as usual for his walk on the hill and from there slipped away quietly to Skandasramam. As soon as this became known, men and women alike began going up the hill with torches and lanterns regardless of the approaching darkness. It was one thing for people who do not know Bhagavan’s ways to follow him up the hill, but I thought that I, who knew how things were, ought not to go. Twice I started to go up and returned after reaching the first turning, but finally I could not resist the temptation to follow the crowd. Just as the monkey cannot change its nature, however we cajole it, so my mind’s natural tendencies reasserted themselves, however much I tried to control them. What is the use of being sorry about it afterwards? Actually, when all his children came up like that in the darkness, how grieved Bhagavan must have felt that there was no place for them to sit and nothing for them to eat.

That is why in his overflowing kindness he later arranged a regular feast for them all there. How could he manage this enormous family but for his wonderful controlling ability? How could he manage to be so detached even in the midst of this big family were he not full of profound peace? Remember, there is nothing beyond the power of the great Master.

Letter 13

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3rd December, 1945
In August 1944, a Bengali youth in ochre-coloured robes, by name Chinmayananda, a pracharak (preacher) of the Hindu religion belonging to the Birla Mandir in Delhi, came here. He had gone round several countries, visited the Aurobindo Ashram and came here with a letter from Dilip Kumar Roy. He is fond of devotional music and has a fine voice. It was clear from the conversation that he was a follower of the Bhakti cult of Chaitanya. He performed bhajan in the presence of Bhagavan four or five times, singing songs in Sanskrit and Hindi. It seems some one who was in charge of a modern adhyatmic (spiritual) institution told him that he cannot reach his goal in this life unless he stayed at one place undisturbed.

With a view to find out Bhagavan’s opinion in this matter, one day he approached Bhagavan and asked in a general way: “Swami, can sadhakas attain this goal in life if they go about the world absorbed in singing songs in praise of God? Or should they stay at one place only for the purpose?”

“It is good to keep the mind concentrated on one thing only wherever the person wanders. What is the use of keeping the body at one place only if the mind is allowed to wander?” said Bhagavan.

“Is ahetuka bhakti (devotion without a motive) possible?” asked that young man. “Yes, it is possible,” said Bhagavan. Some time back, when some others also asked the same question during conversation, Bhagavan had replied saying, “Why is it not possible?” The bhakti (devotion) of Prahlada and Narada was only ahetuka bhakti.

The devotion shown by our Bhagavan towards Arunachala is an example of this type of bhakti. During the very first darshan, Bhagavan had said, “Oh father! I have come here according to your orders and have surrendered myself to you.”
Look! Bhagavan says, Lord Arunachala had ordered and that he had come! Why was he ordered and why had he come? Bhagavan had come and had surrendered himself completely. If asked for what purpose he had done all that, what is there to say! See the bhava (meaning) in the seventh stanza of Arunachala Navamani Mala written by Bhagavan in Tamil. This was translated into Telugu by G. Narasinga Rao. What is the purpose indicated in this stanza? Nothing. Bhagavan tells us, now and then, that ahetuka bhakti, ananya bhakti, poorna bhakti and the like are synonymous with jnana and are not different.

Letter 12

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2nd December, 1945
On another occasion, an Andhra youth came and said, “Swami, having a great desire for moksha (deliverance) and anxious to know the way thereto, I have read all sorts of books on Vedanta. They all describe it, each in a different way. I have also visited a number of learned people and when I asked them, each recommended a different path. I got puzzled and have come to you; please tell me which path to take.”

With a smile on his face, Bhagavan said, “All right, then, go the way you came.”

We all felt amused at this. The poor young man did not know what to say. He waited until Bhagavan left the hall and then with a depressed look turned to the others there appealingly, and said, “Gentlemen, I have come a long way with great hope and with no regard for the expenses or discomfort, out of my ardent desire to know the way to moksha; is it fair to tell me to go the way I came. Is this such a huge joke?”

Thereupon one of them said, “No, sir, it is no joke. It is the most appropriate reply to your question. Bhagavan’s teaching is that the enquiry, ‘Who am I?’ is the easiest path to moksha. You asked him which way ‘I’ should go, and his saying, ‘Go the way you came,’ meant that if you investigate and pursue the path from which that ‘I’ came, you will attain moksha.” The voice of a Mahatma indicates the truth even when speaking in a light vein. Thereupon the book, “Who am I?” was placed in the hands of the young man who felt astonished at the interpretation, and taking Bhagavan’s words as upadesa, prostrated himself to Bhagavan and went away.

Bhagavan usually gives us his teachings either in a humorous or a casual way or by way of consolation. During my early days at the Ashram, whenever I felt like going home, I would approach Bhagavan at some time when there were hardly any people present and say, “I want to go home, Bhagavan, but I am afraid of falling back into family muddles.” He would reply, “Where is the question of our falling into anything when all comes and falls into us?”

On another occasion, I said, “Swami, I am not yet freed from these bonds.” Bhagavan replied,
“Let what comes come, let what goes go. Why do you worry?”

Yes, if only we could realise what that ‘I’ is, we should not have all these worries.

Letter 11

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1st December, 1945
During the early days of my arrival here, on one day at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, a middle-aged Andhra, who had come recently, asked Bhagavan, “Swami, as I repeat Rama Namam (the name of Rama) regularly every morning and every evening for an hour, other thoughts come in, one by one, increase from time to time and ultimately find that I have forgotten my japam. What shall I do?”

“At that time catch hold of that name (Rama Namam)” said Bhagavan. We all laughed. Poor man! He felt grieved and said, “The reasons for these interruption is the samsara (family), is not it? I am therefore thinking of abandoning the samsara.”

Bhagavan said, “Oh! Is that so? What really is meant by samsara? Is it within or without?”
“Wife, children and others” he said.
“Is that all the samsara? What have they done? Please find out first what really is meant by samsara.

Afterwards we shall consider the question of abandoning them,” said Bhagavan. He could not reply and so kept quiet, crestfallen.

Bhagavan’s heart was full of compassion. With a look full of tender kindness he said, “Supposing you leave your wife and children. If you are here this will become another kind of samsara. Supposing you take to sannyasa. Another kind of samsara comes into existence in the shape of a karra (walking stick), kamandalu (water bowl) and the like. Why all that? Samsara means samsara of the mind. If you leave that samsara, it will be the same thing wherever you are. Nothing troubles you.”

Poor man! He mustered up some courage and said, “Yes, that is it, Swami. How to give up that samsara of the mind?”

Bhagavan said, “That is just it; you said you were doing the japam of Rama Namam. During the train of thoughts, you said you were sometimes reminded of the fact that you had forgotten the japam of Rama Namam. Try to remind yourself of that fact as often as possible and catch hold of the name of Rama frequently. Other thoughts will then slowly decrease.

For the japam of nam (repeating the name of the Lord) several stages have been prescribed.

उत्तमस्तवादुच्चमन्दत: ।
चित्तजं जपध्यानमुत्तमम् ।।

It is better to repeat the name by the mere motion of the lips than by repeating it aloud; better than that is to repeat it in the mind, and the best is dhyanam.

-- Upadesa Saram, verse 6

Letter 10

30th November, 1945
About two years back, an old couple from Guntur, who have been visiting the Ashram for a long time past, came and stayed here for two months. The gentleman could not stay away from his house and children for more than two months at a stretch; however, with a view perhaps to put the blame on the wife, he approached Bhagavan and said, “I can’t bear these family troubles; I told my wife not to come with me, but she has come. Before even two months have elapsed, she says, ‘Come on, let us go. There are a lot of things to attend to at home.’ I ask her to go alone but she refuses. However much I tell her she does not listen to me.

Please, Bhagavan, you at least persuade her to go. Then I shall eat with you and stay on here.”

Bhagavan replied jocularly, “Where will you go, my dear man, forsaking your family? Will you fly up into the sky? After all, you have to remain on this earth. Wherever we are, there is the family. I too came away saying I did not want anything, but see what a big family I have now! My family is a hundred times bigger than yours. You ask me to tell her to go, but if she comes and says, ‘where am I to go, Swami? I would rather stay here,’ what shall I say to her then? You say you don’t want your family, but what shall I do with my family? Where shall I go, if I leave all this?”

The people in the hall were all smiles. The old man squatted on the floor, saying, “Yes, but what does it matter to Bhagavan? He is free from all bonds, and so he can bear the burden of any family however big it may be.”

You should see how humorously Bhagavan talks about things. Whatever he says has some teaching for us in it.

Devotees like myself have got into the habit of telling Bhagavan about some pain in the leg or stomach or back. A person once came and said, “My eyesight is bad. I cannot see properly. I want Bhagavan’s grace for my relief.” Bhagavan nodded as usual, and as soon as that person had left, he said,

“He says he has pain in the eyes, I have pain in my legs. Whom shall I ask for relief?”

We were all taken aback and kept quiet.

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Letter 9

29th November, 1945

I believe it was about a year back. You know Ramachandra Rao, an Ayurvedic physician? For preparing a medicine that would give strength to Bhagavan’s body, he made out a long list of the necessary herbs and ingredients and showed it to Sri Bhagavan. Like a good boy, who would readily obey instructions, Bhagavan went through the whole list, praised the efficacy of the various drugs and finally said,
“For whom is this medicine, my dear man?”

He said quietly, “For Sri Bhagavan himself.” On hearing that, Bhagavan
“No doubt, you have given me a long list, but where am I to get the money for it? It may cost Rs. 10/-, and whom am I to approach for it?”

Someone quietly said, looking around at the Ashram property, “Whose is all this, Swamiji?”
“Yes, but what have I? If I want a quarter anna, I must go and ask the Sarvadhikari. How should I go and ask him? He gives me a little food, if I go there as soon as the bell rings.

I also eat along with the others and then come back, and I might be refused food if I was late. Even in being served food, I come last,” said Bhagavan.

The poor physician trembled with fear and, with folded hands, said, “Swamiji, I just showed you the list and I myself will get the required drugs.” Upon this Bhagavan said,

“Oh yes? You will get them? But if that medicine is good for me, it must necessarily be good for all the others here. Can you give it to them also as well as to me?”

When some people said, “Why do we want it, Swamiji?”
Bhagavan replied, “If people who do physical work don’t need a body-building tonic, how do I who merely sits here and eats? No, no, that can’t be!”

Once before, Dr. Srinivasa Rao told Bhagavan about an Allopathic medicine which gives strength and said that it would be good for Bhagavan if he took it. Bhagavan said,
“Yes, that is all right, you are rich and can take anything; but what about me? I am a mendicant. How can I have such a costly medicine?” Then the doctor said, “Bhagavan always declines everything that is offered, but if he agrees to take something, won’t it be forthcoming? Or if not medicines, why not take some nutritious food such as milk, fruit and almonds?”
Bhagavan replied: “All right; but I am a daridranarayana (God in the form of the poor and the destitute). How can I afford it? Besides, am I a single individual? Mine is a large family. How can all of them have fruits, milk, almonds, etc.?”
Bhagavan dislikes anything special for himself. He has often told us that if anybody brings eatables and distributes them amongst all he will not mind even if he is left out, but he will feel hurt if the eatables are given to him only and not distributed to others along with him. If he is walking along a path, and some people are coming in the opposite direction, he does not like them to step aside for him but instead he will himself step aside and allow them to pass and, until they do, he will not go a step farther. We should consider ourselves fortunate if we can imbibe even a thousandth part of this spirit of equality and renunciation.

If dull-witted people like me who do not know his ideas give him preferential treatment in matters of food, etc., he excuses a great deal since forbearance is his nature, but when it goes too far he gets disgusted and says,

“What am I to do? They have the upper hand, they are the people who serve, I am the one who eats. I must listen to what they say, and eat when they want me to. You see, this is swamitvam (life of a Swami). Do you understand?”

What more admonition can one want than this?

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