Letter 97

(97) BIRTH
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24th February, 1947
Yesterday a lady devotee showed Bhagavan her notebook in which she had copied out the five verses of “Ekatma Panchakam”. Bhagavan saw in that notebook two verses composed by him for his devotees when they first started celebrating his birthday, and told us the following incident:

Photo (c) Sri Ramanasramam

“On one of my birthdays while I was in Virupaksha Cave, probably in 1912, those around me insisted on cooking food and eating it there as a celebration of the occasion. I tried to dissuade them, but they rebelled saying, ‘What harm does it do to Swamiji if we cook our food and eat it here?’ I therefore left it at that. Immediately after that they purchased some vessels. Those vessels are still here. What began as a small function has resulted in all this paraphernalia and pomp. Everything must take its own course and will not stop at our request. I told them at great length, but they did not listen. When the cooking and eating were over, Iswaraswamy who used to be with me in those days, said, ‘Swamiji! this is your birthday. Please compose two verses and I too will compose two.’ It was then that I composed these two verses which I find in the notebook here. They run as follows:

1. You who intend to celebrate the birthday, first ascertain as to whence you were born. The day that we attain a place in that everlasting life which is beyond the reach of births and deaths is our real birthday.

2. Even on these birthdays that occur once a year, we ought to lament that we have got this body and fallen into this world. Instead we celebrate the event with a feast. To rejoice over it is like decorating a corpse. Wisdom consists in realising the Self and in getting absorbed therein.

“This is the purport of those verses. It appears that it is a custom amongst a certain section of people in Malabar to weep when a child is born in the house and celebrate a death with pomp. Really one should lament having left one’s real state, and taken birth again in this world, and not celebrate it as a festive occasion.”

I asked, “But what did Iswaraswamy write?”

Oh! He! He wrote, praising me as an Avatar (incarnation of God) and all that. That was a pastime with him in those days. He used to compose one verse and in return I used to compose one, and so on. We wrote many verses, but nobody took the trouble to preserve them. Most of the time we two were alone in those days; there were no facilities for food etc. Who would stay? Nowadays as all facilities are provided, many people gather around me and sit here. But what was there in those days? If any visitors came, they used to stay for a little while, and then go away. That was all.” On my request to give me a Telugu translation of those birthday verses, he wrote one and gave it to me.

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