(125) FORCED DINNERS
27th June, 1947
This afternoon at 3 o’clock, a devotee from Eesanya Mutt came and bowed before Bhagavan. Seeing him, Bhagavan said, “A telegram has been received that the Swami in Kovilur Mutt is no more. Is Natesa Swami gone?”
“Yes. Two days ago. We knew beforehand that he was sick,” he said. Someone asked, “Who is Natesa Swami?” “The deceased who passed away at the Kovilur Mutt was originally in charge of the Eesanya Mutt. When the Matadhipathi (head of the mutt) of Kovilur passed away Natesa Swami was taken there and was made the head of that mutt. That is the most important Vedanta mutt this side. Though he was not very learned, he was a good sadhak and so he was chosen. It might have been about twenty years back,” said Bhagavan.
“Is he the same person that made Bhagavan get into a bandy?” I asked.
“No. That was the one who was in the mutt before Natesa Swami. He was not like this person. He was a powerful personality,” said Bhagavan. “When was that?” someone asked. “That was when I was still in Virupaksha Cave and about four or five years after I came to Tiruvannamalai. It is a funny story. One day when Palaniswamy and myself went round the hill and came near the temple it was 8 p.m. As we were tired, I lay down in Subrahmanya temple. Palani went out to fetch food from the choultry. He (the head of the mutt) was going into the temple. As usual there were a number of disciples around him. One of them saw me and told them about it. That was enough. While returning, he came with ten of his disciples and stood around me. He began saying, ‘Get up, Swami. We shall go.’ I was in mouna then, so I showed by signs that I wouldn’t accompany them. Was he the man to listen to me? ‘Lift him up bodily, lift,’ he said to his disciples.
As there was no alternative, I got up. When I came out, there was a bandy ready. ‘Get in, Swami,’ he said. I declined and showed them by signs that I would prefer to walk and suggested that he should get into the bandy. He took no notice of my protestations. Instead, he told his disciples, ‘What are you looking at? Lift Swami and put him in the cart.’ There were ten of them and I was alone. What could I do? They lifted me bodily and put me into the cart. Without saying anything more, I went to the mutt. He had a big leaf spread out for me, filled it with food of all kinds, showed great respect and began saying ‘Please stay here always.’ Palaniswami went to the temple, enquired about me and then came to the mutt.
After he came, I somehow managed to escape from there.
That was the only occasion on which I got into a cart after coming to Tiruvannamalai. Subsequently whenever new people arrived they sent a cart, asking me to go over to their place. If once I yielded, I was afraid there would be no end to that sort of invitation and so I sent back the cart, refusing to go. Eventually they stopped sending carts. But that was not the only trouble with them. Even if I did not go to them when invited, I used to go round the hill and would sometimes visit the mutt. He would then go in and say something to the cook. At meal time he would have a big leaf spread out for me, sit by my side and instruct the cook to serve me food over and over again. On other days he would not eat along with the disciples in the mutt. but when I visited the mutt he used to sit by my side for food. How could I eat all that was piled on the leaf? I used to touch a little of the various preparations. The balance used to be mixed together by the disciples and the inmates used to eat it saying, ‘It is Swami’s prasadam.’ Noticing that, I gave up eating from a leaf.
Whenever I felt like eating there in the mutt, I used to stay in Pachiamman Koil or somewhere nearby, go to the mutt soon after the naivedya bell was rung, stay near the main entrance and ask for the nivedana (food offering to God). They used to bring it, and give it into my hands. I used to eat without the aid of a leaf. Salt is not put into that nivedana, as it is a Siva temple. Even so, I didn’t mind it at all. All that I wanted was to satisfy my hunger. As the head of the mutt was staying upstairs, he knew nothing about it for some time. One day he saw it accidentally. ‘Who is it that is giving Swami food without salt?’ he enquired angrily.
Subsequently he learned all the facts and left the matter at that. The person who died recently was not like that. He was a very peaceful and easy-going man. He used to sit by my side along with all the others and arrange for serving me food in normal quantities, similar to the others.” “Bhagavan also once lectured there, didn’t he?” someone asked. “Yes,” he replied. “When the person who recently passed away was teaching some lessons to the inmates of the mutt, I happened to go there. They received me with great respect and made me sit down. ‘Go on with the lessons,’ I said. ‘Can I teach lessons in Swami’s presence? Swami himself must say something,’ he replied. So saying, he got a copy of Gita Saram, made his sishyas to read and requested me to explain it. As there was no way out, I gave a discourse.” “Ramachandra Iyer’s grandfather once took Bhagavan to his place, it seems,” said that questioner. “That was long back, perhaps in 1896. I was then at Gopura Subrahmanyeswara Temple. He used to come to me daily, sit for a while and then go. I was in Mouna. So there was no talk or consultation.
Even then he had great devotion. One day it seems he invited someone to his house for a feast. In the noon, before meal time, he came to me with another person. One standing on either side of me they said, ‘Swami, get up. Let us go.’ ‘Why?’ I enquired by signs. They told me the purpose. I refused.
But would they go? They caught hold of my hands and forcibly pulled me up. They were prepared even to carry me in their arms. He was tall, stout and with a big belly. I was at the time lean and weak. I was nothing before him.
His friend was even sturdier. What could I do? I was afraid they might even carry me in their arms if I resisted any further. I knew they were inviting me with great bhakti. So, thinking it was no use arguing with them I walked with them.
From the main entrance they took me into the hall with great respect, spread a big plantain leaf and fed me sumptuously and then sent me back. That is the only family house here where I have eaten on a leaf.”