25th January, 1947
Vasudeva Sastry who used to look after the routine work while Bhagavan was in Virupaksha Cave, came to the Ashram the other day and sat down in the presence of Bhagavan.
After the preliminary enquiries about his welfare, Bhagavan told us that it was this Sastry who started the Jayanthi celebrations. A devotee asked, “Is he the person who got frightened, and hid himself when a tiger appeared?” “Yes.
It is he,” Bhagavan replied. “During our stay in Virupaksha Cave, we were all seated on the front verandah one night when a tiger appeared in the valley below. We put a lantern outside the railings of the verandah as we thought that the tiger would not approach us because of the light. Sastry however was very afraid. He therefore crept into the cave and asked us also to do likewise; but we refused. After entering the cave, he bolted the iron-barred door and from there tried to frighten the tiger, like a great warrior, saying, ‘Look! If you come this way, take care. Take care of what I’ll do. Yes! What do you think! Bhagavan is here! Take care.’ All these heroics were from inside the cave and were like those of Uttarakumara (in the Mahabharata story). The story is, Uttarakumara, son of the ruling king Virata, started out with Arjuna, boasting of his prowess but took to heel when he faced the enemy. Arjuna finally won the battle. The tiger loitered about for a while and then went its own way. Sastry then ventured to come out --- a very brave man indeed,” said Bhagavan.
Photo of entrance to Virupaksha Cave, 2006
Sastry took up the thread of the conversation and said, “That was not the only occasion. Another time, in broad daylight, Swamiji and I were seated on a rock outside the cave. In the valley below, a tiger and a leopard were playing with each other and Bhagavan was smiling as he watched the friendly movements of the two animals. I was however in a terrible fright and requested Bhagavan to come into the cave. He was adamant and sat there motionless. As for myself, I sought the shelter of the cave. The two animals played about for a while, looked at Swamiji, in the same way as pets do, and without any fear or expression of anger, went their own way, one going up the hill and the other down. When I came out of the cave and asked, ‘Swamiji, weren’t you afraid when the two animals were playing about so close to you?’ Bhagavan said with a smile, ‘Why have fear? I knew as I saw them that, after a while, one of them would go up the hill and the other down. And they did. If we get frightened and say, ‘Oh! A tiger!’ they will also get frightened and say, ‘Oh! A man!’ and will rush forward to kill us. If we do not have that fear, they too will not have any fear, and will then move about freely and peacefully.” “In spite of all that Bhagavan had said,” Sastry added, “my fear never left me.”
“It was Sastry who embraced me and wept when my heart stopped beating,” said Bhagavan and narrated the incident thus: “One day I went to the tank in front of Pachiamman Koil with Vasu and others for a bath, and we were returning by a short cut, when, as we approached the tortoise rock, I felt tired and giddy and so sat down on the rock. My experience at that time has been recorded in my biography,* as you all know,” said Bhagavan. Taking up the thread of the conversation, Sastry said: “Yes. While all else stood at a distance weeping, I suddenly embraced him. I was a bachelor at the time and had the liberty to do so. No one else used to touch Swami’s body. He was in that state for about ten minutes, I think, and then gained consciousness. I jumped about with joy. ‘Why this weeping? You thought I was dead? If I am to die, will I not tell you beforehand?’ Bhagavan said, consoling us.”
Photo inside Virupaksha Cave of Bhagavan and Ganapathi Muni (taken Feb 2006)
* “Suddenly the view of natural scenery in front of me disappeared and a bright white curtain was drawn across the line of my vision and shut out the view of nature. I could distinctly see the gradual process. At one stage I could see a part of nature clear, and the rest was being covered by the advancing curtain. It was just like drawing a slide across one’s view in the stereoscope. On experiencing this I stopped walking lest I should fall. When it cleared, I walked on. When darkness and a fainting feeling overtook me a second time, I leaned against a rock until it cleared. And again for the third time I felt it safer to sit, so I sat near the rock.
Then the bright white curtain had completely shut out my vision, my head was swimming, and my blood circulation and breathing stopped. The skin turned a livid blue. It was the regular death- like hue and it got darker and darker. Vasudeva Sastri took me in fact to be dead, held me in his embrace and began to weep aloud and lament my death. His body was shivering. I could at that time distinctly feel his clasp and his shivering, hear his lamentation and understand the meaning. I also saw the discolouration of my skin and I felt the stoppage of my heart beat and respiration, and the increased chilliness of the extremities of my body. Yet my usual current of “Self-effulgence” (Atma-sphurana, Self-awareness) was continuing as usual in that state also.
I was not afraid in the least, nor felt any sadness at the condition of my body. I had closed my eyes as soon as I sat near the rock in my usual padmasana posture but was not leaning against it. The body which had no circulation nor respiration maintained that position. This state continued for some ten or fifteen minutes. Then I felt a shock passing suddenly through the body, circulation revived with enormous force, as also respiration; and there was profuse perspiration all over the body from every pore. The colour of life reappeared on the skin. I then opened my eyes, got up casually and said, ‘Let us go.’ We reached Virupaksha Cave without further trouble. That was the only occasion on which both my blood circulation and respiration stopped.” Then the Maharshi added, to correct some wrong accounts that had been obtained currently about the incident, “I did not bring on the fit purposely, nor did I wish to see what this body would look like at death. Nor did I say that I will not leave this body without warning others. It was one of those fits that I used to get occasionally. Only it assumed a very serious aspect in this instance.”