Letter 86

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1st February, 1947
After Bhagavan had read out from the Tamil commentary of Soundarya Lahari and told us that the words ‘dravida sisuhu’ referred to Sambandha himself, the discussion on that subject continued in the Hall for the subsequent two or three days. In this connection a devotee asked Bhagavan one day, “Sambandha’s original name was Aludaya Pillayar wasn’t it? When did he get the other name of ‘Jnana Sambandhamurthy?’ and why?” 

Bhagavan replied, “As soon as he drank the milk given by the Goddess, Jnana Sambandha (contact with Knowledge), was established for him, and he got the name Jnana Sambandhamurthy Nayanar. That means, he became a Jnani without the usual relationship of Guru and disciple. Hence, people all over the neighbourhood began to call him by that name from that day onwards. That is the reason.” I said, “Bhagavan too acquired knowledge without the aid of a Guru in human form?” “Yes! yes! That is why Krishnayya brought out so many points of similarities between Sambandha and myself,” said Bhagavan.

“In Sri Ramana Leela it is stated, that while Sambandha was coming to Tiruvannamalai the forest tribes robbed him of his possessions. He was a man of wisdom and knowledge.

What property had he?”, I asked. “Oh! that! He followed the path of devotion, didn’t he? Therefore he had golden bells and a pearl palanquin and other symbols of that nature according to the injunctions of Ishwara. He had also a mutt (an establishment for monks) and all that a mutt requires,” said Bhagavan. “Is that so? When did he get all those?” I asked.

Bhagavan replied with a voice full of emotion, “From the time when he acquired the name of Jnana Sambandha, that is, even from his childhood, he used to sing with uninterrupted poetic flow and go on pilgrimage. He first visited a holy place called Thirukolakka, went into the temple there, sang verses in praise of the Lord, beating time with his little hands. God appreciated it and gave him a pair of golden bells for beating time. From that day onwards the golden bells were in his hands whatever he sang and wherever he went. Thereafter he visited Chidambaram and other holy places and then went to a pilgrim centre called Maranpadi.

There were no trains in those days. The presiding deity in that place observed this little boy visiting holy places on foot.

So His heart melted with pity and He created a pearl palanquin, a pearl umbrella and other accompaniments bedecked with pearls suitable for sannyasis, left them in the temple, appeared to the brahmin priests there and to Sambandha in their dreams and told the Brahmins, ‘Give them to Sambandha with proper honours,’ and told Sambandha, ‘The Brahmins will give you all these; take them.’ As they were gifts from Gods he could not refuse them. So Sambandha accepted with reverential salutations by doing pradakshina, etc. and then got into the palanquin. From that time onwards he used to go about in that palanquin wherever he went. Gradually some staff gathered around him and a mutt was established. But whenever he approached a holy place, he used to alight from the palanquin as soon as he saw the gopura (tower) of the shrine and from there onwards, he travelled on foot until he entered the place. He came here on foot from Tirukoilur as the peak of Arunagiri is visible from there.” A Tamil devotee said that that visit was not clearly mentioned in Periapuranam, to which Bhagavan replied as follows: “No. It is not in Periapuranam. But it is stated in Upamanyu’s Sivabhaktivilasam in Sanskrit. Sambandha worshipped Virateswara in Arakandanallur and won the god’s favour with his verses and then he worshipped Athulyanatheswara in the same way. From there he beheld the peak of Arunagiri and sang verses out of excess of joy and installed an image of Arunachaleswara in the same spot.

While he was seated there on a mandapam, God Arunachaleswara appeared to him first in the shape of a Jyoti (light) and then in the shape of an old brahmin.

Sambandha did not know who that old brahmin was. The brahmin had in his hand a flower basket. Unaccountably, Sambandha’s mind was attracted towards that brahmin like a magnet. He at once asked him with folded hands, ‘Where do you come from?’ ‘I have just come from Arunachalam.

My village is here, nearby,’ replied the brahmin. Sambandha asked him in surprise, ‘Arunachala! But how long ago did you come here?’ The brahmin replied indifferently ‘How long ago? Daily I come here in the morning to gather flowers to make a garland for Lord Arunachala and return there by the afternoon.’ Sambandha was surprised and said, ‘Is that so? But they said it is very far from here?’ The old brahmin said, ‘Who told you so? You can reach there in one stride.

What is there great in it?’ Having heard that, Sambandha became anxious to visit Arunachala and asked, ‘If so, can I walk there?’ The old man replied, ‘Ah! If an aged man like myself goes there and comes here daily, can’t a youth like you do it? What are you saying?’ “With great eagerness Sambandha asked, ‘Sir, if that is so, please take me also along with you,’ and started at once with all his entourage. The brahmin was going in advance and the party was following behind. Suddenly the brahmin disappeared. As the party was looking here and there, in confusion, a group of hunters surrounded them, and robbed them of the palanquin, umbrella, golden bells and all the pearls and other valuable articles, their provisions and even the clothes they were wearing. They were left with only their loin clothes. They did not know the way; it was very hot and there was no shelter, and all were hungry as it was time for taking food. What could they do? Then Sambandha prayed to God. ‘Oh! Lord, why am I being tested like this? I don’t care what happens to me, but why should these followers of mine be put to this hard test?’ On hearing those prayers, God appeared in His real form and said, ‘My son, these hunters too are my Pramatha Ganas (personal attendants).

They deprived you of all your possessions as it is best to proceed to the worship of Lord Arunachala without any show or pomp. All your belongings will be restored to you as soon as you reach there. It is noon time now. You may enjoy the feast and then proceed farther’. So saying He disappeared.

“At once, a big tent appeared on a level space nearby.

Some Brahmins came out of the tent and invited Sambandha and his party to their tent, entertained them to a feast with delicious dishes of various kinds and with chandanam (sandal paste) and thambulam (betel leaves). Sambandha who was all along entertaining others, was himself entertained by the Lord Himself. After they had rested for a while, one of the Brahmins in the tent got up and said, ‘Sir, shall we proceed to Arunagiri?’ Sambandha was extremely happy and accompanied the brahmin along with his followers. But as soon as they set out on their journey, the tent together with the people in it disappeared. While Sambandha was feeling astonished at those strange happenings, the guide who had been leading them to Arunachala disappeared as soon as they arrived there.

Suddenly, the tent along with the people in it and the hunters who had robbed them previously appeared from all sides and restored to Sambandha all his belongings which they had robbed previously, and vanished. With tears of joy, Sambandha praised the Lord for His great kindness, stayed there for some days, worshipped Him with flowers of verses and then proceeded on his journey. Out of His affection for Sambandha, who was serving Him with reverence, God Himself, it would appear, invited him to this hill.” So saying, Bhagavan assumed silence, with his heart filled with devotion and with his voice trembling with emotion.

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