(16) THE FIRST BHIKSHA
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.