Seshadri Ashram

Stories of Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi - A Selection of Stories

Stories On This Page:

From a Great Darkness

What does Sri Bhagavan mean to me? After many years of experiencing his grace I can now reply, "He is everything to me. He is my Guru and my God." I can say this with confidence because, had I not had the good fortune of seeing him and thereafter getting into closer contact with him, I would have been still groping in the dark. I would still have been a doubting Thomas.

How did it all begin? When I was eighteen I read a lot of books by Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. This reading generated a desire in me that I should also become a sannyasin, like the authors of these books. Their writings also implanted in me the ideal of plain living, high thinking, and a life dedicated to spiritual matters. Somehow, my desire to become a sannyasin was never fulfilled, but the ideal of a dedicated life made a deeper and deeper impression on my mind. At the age of twenty I had the good fortune of contacting Mahatma Gandhi. His ideals won my heart and for several years I faithfully tried to put them into practice.

I was doing my duty to the best of my ability and leading, as best I could, a pure and dedicated life until the age of thirty-eight. Around that time skepticism began to assail me and my mind became a home for all kinds of doubts. I began to doubt the ideals of Gandhiji; I began to doubt sadhus and sannyasins; I doubted religion, and I even began to doubt the existence of God.

It was in this darkest period of my life that I first heard of Sri Ramana Maharshi. At that time I seemed to be heading swiftly towards total skepticism. The world appeared to me to be full of injustice, cruelty, greed, hate and other evils, the existence of which logically led me to a strong disbelief in God. For, I argued, did He truly exist, could anything dark or evil ever have flourished? Doubt upon doubt assailed me like dark shadows which dogged my footsteps. I had, as a consequence, lost whatever little reverence I might have had for sadhus and sannyasins. I found myself slowly but surely losing my interest in religion. The very word itself eventually became a synonym in my mind for a clever ruse to delude the credulity of the world. In short, I began to live a life lacking optimism and faith. I was not happy in my disbelief, for my mind took on the aspect of turbulent waters, and I felt that all around me there was raging a scorching fire which seemed to burn up my very entrails.

It was about that time that Chhaganlal Yogi met an old friend on the train who had recently visited Ramanashram. His friend described his visit with great enthusiasm and tried his best to convince Chhaganlal that Ramana Maharshi was an authentic sage. Then his friend gave him a pinch of vibhutti, holy ash from Ramana Maharshi's ashram, but such was his skepticism and cynicism that he let the precious ashes fall from his fingers onto the floor of the train. But in parting his friend gave him a book about the Maharshi which Chhaganlal read and was intrigued by, yet he still felt a great skepticism. Despite his cynicism, he could not get the Maharshi out of his mind. Finally after reading other books and repeatedly writing to the ashram, he decided to visit and find out for himself.

At first I was terribly disappointed because nothing seemed to strike me in the way I had expected. I found Sri Bhagavan seated on a couch, as quiet and unmoving as a statue. His presence did not seem to emanate anything unusual, and I was very disappointed to discover that he displayed no interest in me at all. I had expected warmth and intimacy, but unfortunately I seemed to be in the presence of someone who lacked both.

From morning till evening I sat waiting to catch a glimpse of his grace, of his interest in me, a stranger who had come all the way from Bombay, but I evoked no response. Sri Bhagavan merely seemed cold and unaffected. After pinning such hopes on him, his apparent lack of interest nearly broke my heart. Eventually, I decided to leave the ashram, knowing full well that if I did, I would be more skeptical and hard-headed that before.

The Veda parayana was chanted every evening in Sri Bhagavan's presence. It was considered to be one of the most attractive items in the daily program of the ashram, but in my depressed state it fell flat on my ears. It was the evening of the day that I had decided to leave. The sun was setting like a sad farewell, spreading a darkness over both the hill and my heart. The gloom deepened until the neighborhood disappeared into the blackness of the night. In my sensitive state the electric light which was switched on in the hall seemed like a living wound on the body of the darkness. My mind, which was deeply tormented, felt that the psychic atmosphere in the hall was stuffy and choking. Unable to bear it any longer, I walked outside to get a breath of fresh air. A young man called Gopalan came up to me and asked me where I had come from.

"Bombay," I replied.

He asked me if I had been introduced to the Master, and when I replied that I had not, he was most surprised. He immediately led me to the office, introduced me to the Sarvadhikari and then proceeded with me to the hall where he introduced me to Sri Bhagavan. When he heard my name Sri Bhagavan's eyes turned to me, looked straight into mine and twinkled like stars. With a smile beaming with grace he asked me if I were a Gujerati. I replied that I was. Immediately he sent for a copy of the Gujerati translation by Sri Kishorelal Mashruwala of Upadesa Saram, a few copies of which had only just arrived. He then asked me to chant the Gujerati verses from the book.

"But I am not a singer," I answered, hesitating to begin. But when it became clear that I was expected to perform, I got over my initial hesitation and began to chant verses from the book. I had sung about fifteen when the bell for the evening meal rang. All the time I was chanting I could feel Sri Bhagavan keenly observing me. It seemed that the light of his eyes was suffusing my consciousness, even without my being conscious of it. His silent gaze brought about a subtle but definite transformation in me. The darkness, which a few minutes before had seemed heavy and unbearable, gradually lightened and melted into a glow of well-being. My erstwhile sadness completely disappeared, leaving in my heart an inexplicable emotion of joy. My limbs appeared to have been washed in an ocean-tide of freedom.

That evening I sat close to Sri Bhagavan in the dining room. In my exalted state the food I ate seemed to have an unusual and unearthly taste. I quite literally felt that I was participating in some heavenly meal in the direct presence of God. After having such an experience I, of course, abandoned all thought of leaving the ashram that night. I stayed on for three days longer in order to widen the sacred and extraordinary experience which had already begun, an experience of divine grace which I felt would lead me in the direction of spiritual liberation.

During the three days of my stay in the proximity of the Divine Master, I found my whole outlook entirely changed. After that short period I could find little evidence of my old self, a self which had been tied down with all kinds of preconceptions and prejudices. I felt that I had lost the chains which bind the eyes of true vision. I became aware that the whole texture of my mind had undergone a change. The colors of the world seemed different, and even the ordinary daylight took on an ethereal aspect. I began to see the foolishness and the futility of turning my gaze only on the dark side of life.

In those few days Sri Bhagavan, the divine magician, opened up for me a strange new world of illumination, hope and joy. I felt that his presence on earth alone constituted sufficient proof that humanity, suffering and wounded because of its obstinate ignorance, could be uplifted and saved. For the first time I fully understood the significance of 'darshan'.

While I lay in bed in the guest room of the ashram, the encounter which had taken place on the train in Bombay replayed itself in my mind. I recalled the blind audacity which had prompted me to drop the thrice-holy vibhuti in contempt onto the floor of the railway carriage. Today, even one speck of such vibhuti is a treasure to me.

"O Master," I thought to myself, "what a miracle of transformation! Why did it take half a lifetime before I could meet you? Half a lifetime of blundering, of failing and falling. But I suppose, my Master, that you would say that time is a mental concept. For I feel that in your sight your bhaktas have, throughout all time, always been with you and near you.

As these thoughts were passing through my mind, I slowly fell into a deep sleep. The next morning I arose in a rejuvenated state; there was a new vigor in my limbs and an awareness that my heart was permeated with light. On the third day of my visit I sadly took leave of Sri Bhagavan. I was still human enough, still caught in the sense of time and space, for the parting to leave me with a feeling of aching and emptiness in the heart. But there was no despair. Something assured me that I would be returning to the feet of the Master sooner than I could imagine.

Chhaganlal V. Yogi

An Astounding Astrologer

Sri Venkateswara Sarma (Sastrigal Mama) was an exceptional and astounding astrologer. From childhood he exhibited a rare genius in this field. While still very young, his extraordinary intelligence enabled him to master the most abstruse and difficult branch of astrology. All, including his guru, declared him as the wisest student.

Prasna is an astrological science based on a perfect fruition between mathematics and intuition. With just some meager information from the questioner, which includes only the first word of the question, a Prasna astrologer can, within seconds, draw up mentally a horoscope. This requires great mathematical precision and perfection. Having drawn the horoscope within his mind, and in a flash also having studied it, the astrologer will have to wait, prayerfully. Then, from the depths of his inner intuition words gush forth, forming the astrological predictions for the questioner. As this Prasna process is not merely based on mathematical horoscopes, it culminates in intuitional revelation, and the predictions are said to be amazingly accurate and correct to the minutest detail. Sri Sastrigal Mama was highly proficient in this system of astrology.

He once described it to me by citing this example: One day a merchant came to his house while he was engaged offering worship in his puja room. His wife informed him that one Nagappa Chettiar was waiting on the verandah and that he seemed worried about some urgent matter. Not willing to interrupt his worship, and by merely listening to the name and the few details given by his wife, Sri Sastrigal Mama, within a minute, began giving the following prediction:

"Tell Nagappa Chettiar that he has come to inquire about his lost, costly diamond ring. He suspects his servant. Assure him that no one has stolen it. In his gardn, near the well, there are two rows of plantain trees. On one side there are only two trees; on the other there is a cluster of trees. Let him search under the two trees and the diamond ring will be found there. While he was cleaning his clothes on the washing stone the ring slipped off his finger and fell to the ground."

Nagappa Chettiar returned home and found the ring exactly where Sri Sastrigal Mama had said, and because of this and similar astounding predictions Sri Sastrigal Mama became quite famous. He also became convinced that the Prasna branch of astrology was the most perfect science.

At the height of his career he heard about Sri Ramana Maharshi. When he first saw Sri Bhagavan's picture he was immediately captivated and traveled to Arunachala to see the Sage. He climbed up to Skandashram, where Bhagavan then resided. On the very first look that the Maharshi gave him, Sri Sastrigal Mama became his slave. He had a strong desire to stay with the Maharshi permanently, renouncing everything he held dear. Yet, there was still his lifelong attraction to the science of astrology. He felt distracted by it and did not know how to proceed.

One day, gathering courage, he approached Sri Maharshi in all humility and said, "Bhagavan, is not astrology the best and most accurate of all sciences?"

In silence Bhagavan looked at him deeply for some time. Then, slowly but firmly, he replied: "The science of the Self is superior to all other sciences."

It was the peak period in Sri Sastrigal Mama's life. For every prediction he was richly rewarded and was consequently acquiring immense wealth. Nevertheless, the words from the Master convinced him immediately to renounce his lucrative profession and pursue the science of the Self. His wife too fully supported him in this decision. The remainder of their life they lived in utter poverty at the holy feet of the Sat-Guru, under the protective shade of the Sacred Mountain, Arunachala.

V. Ganesan

Who Will Show Me The Way? - Shantammal

At the instance of Sri Muruganar, Shantammal came to the Ashram from Ramnad in 1927. She worked in the kitchen and her devotion to Sri Bhagavan was total. Since she served all with love, everyone at the Ashram loved her, and wherever she stayed people surrounded her to listen to her expositions describing her life with Sri Bhagavan.

When my brother's brother-in-law was transferred from Ramnad to a neighboring village, his wife could not go with him, so he sent for me to cook for him. I was then a widow 40 years old. One morning I sat in front of the fire and looked at the rice boiling and various thoughts came to my mind: "Shantamma, what is the matter with you? Why are you doing all this? You already lost your husband and your three sons. Your daughter you loved dearly and served her, along with her husband. You spent all your money on them. Then your daughter died and so did her child. Then you gave your love to your brother's daughter and her husband and all your money too, and now you are here cooking for your brother's wife's brother. Is it for this that you were born? Must you always entangle yourself with somebody or other? Who is this man to you? Why should you cook for him? What is the meaning of all this endless cooking? If you go on wasting your life like this, what will become of you in the end?"

It was as if a light had flooded my entire being. I went to my brother's son-in-law, told him that I was leaving on pilgrimage for Rameshwaram and got into the train.

During the journey in the train and at Rameshwaram one question was all the time in my mind: "Where can I find the one who will lead me to salvation, who will show me the way to God?"

At Rameshwaram I stayed with a lady who was reading scriptures to pilgrims in the temple and helped her in the household work. She advised me to read the book Kaivalyam. That book was available with one Nagaswami, whom I knew well. I found him and asked him to lend me the book.

"Why do you need Kaivalyam?" he asked.
"To know the path to liberation."
"Will books lead you to salvation ?"
"What else can I do ?"
"Do you really want to know the way ?"
"Yes, I do."
"Have you no other desire than that ?"
"Is that the truth, the very truth ?" Thrice he asked.
"Yes, yes."
He carefully searched my face. "All right, come on the full-moon day."

On that day he taught me the Mahamantra and gave me instructions on how to use it. For months on end I was engrossed in my spiritual practices and forgot my very existence. When I became somewhat conscious of my surroundings, I would serve Nagaswami. But he died within a year and I returned to Ramnad. I was reading holy books, explaining them to other ladies and practicing my mantra. Thus nine years passed and I was already fifty years old.

Muruganar, a native of Ramnad, gave up worldly life at an early age and was known to me to be a disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Once I saw Bhagavan's photo with him and felt a very strong urge to go and see him. I was very poor and it took me a year to collect the money needed.

Today I am Blessed - Vision of Ramana Maharshi In 1927, three other ladies and I went to Tiruvannamalai. By that time Bhagavan had come down from the hill and was living in a hut near his mother's samadhi. We rented a place in the town, had a bath and went to see him. He was seated on a cot in a grass-thatched shed. Muruganar was by his side. As soon as I saw him I knew he was God in human form. I bowed to him and said, "The dream of my life has come true. Today I am blessed. Grant that my mind does not trouble me anymore."

Bhagavan turned to Muruganar and said: "Ask her to find out whether there is such a thing as mind. If there is, ask her to describe it."

I stood still, not knowing what to say. Muruganar explained to me, "Don't you see? You have been initiated in the search for the Self."

Although I was all mixed up, I remembered to honor Bhagavan by singing a poem from "Ramanastuthi Panchakam." It says: "Your spiritual splendor fills the universe with its perfume. Attracted by it numberless beings turn their face to you. I too grew restless and sought you eagerly. Where is He? Where is He? I enquired, and now I have come to you." Bhagavan asked me how I had come to know the song. Muruganar explained that he had given me a copy of the book.

We stayed for forty days. We would cook some food, sharing the expenses, and take it to the Ashram. Bhagavan would taste it and the rest was given to the devotees. In those days, Bhagavan's brother, Chinnaswami, was cooking for the Ashram. Some provisions were sent from the town by various devotees and the supply was very precarious. Often there were no curries or sambar, only plain rice and a piece of pickle. The Kartikai festival, for which Arunachala is famous, was going on. From three in the morning until twelve at night there were people coming and going. Bhagavan had to be protected by a bamboo fence.

I wanted to stay on until Bhagavan's birthday, but the other three ladies had to return, so I went to Bhagavan to take his leave. He asked me to wait a day longer, for the newly-printed Upadesa Saram was to be released. The next day he gave me a copy with his own hands. The thought of leaving him broke my heart and I wept bitterly. Very kindly he said, "No, don't cry. You are going to Ramnad, but you are not leaving Arunachala. Go and come soon."

I spent a year at Ramnad the way I did before. Bhagavan's birthday was nearing and I felt eager to go back. I had not even the money to buy a ticket, yet I resolved to start on Saturday, come what may. On Friday the invitation arrived. Later I came to know that Bhagavan had mentioned my name to the dispatchers. Bhagavan's picture was on the invitation and I took it to the ladies in the Ramnad Palace. They gave me thirty rupees to attend the Jayanti. It was the experience of every devotee that if they were determined to visit him, all obstacles would somehow vanish.

This time Bhagavan was on a sofa in a newly- built hall. He was explaining something from Ulladu Narpadu to Dandapani Swami. When he saw me his first question was: "Have you a copy of this book? I asked them to post one to you." How my Lord remembers me by name and how loving is his personal attention to my needs! What have I, an ignorant woman, done to deserve such kindness? How can I afford to keep away from him?

I stayed at the Ashram as if it were my own home. At night I would sleep in some devotee's house, but from dawn to dusk I would help in the Ashram chores. The birthday celebrations were over, the guests were leaving, and naturally I felt that I too would have to go. But how could I leave Bhagavan? One day I gathered courage and told Bhagavan about my deep urge to stay on: "As long as I am with you, Bhagavan, my mind is at peace. Away from you I am restless. What am I to do?"

He said, "Stay here until your mind gets settled. After that you can go anywhere and nothing will disturb you."

How could I remain? I was too poor to stay in the town. The Ashram was poor too. Often there was not enough food for all. How could I ask them to take me in? Why should they? Anyhow, I had decided not to return to Ramnad. I would not leave the feet of my Guru. If only by some miracle I could stay in the Ashram. And the miracle happened that very minute! When I was going towards the dining hall, I overheard Chinnaswami and Ramakrishnaswami talking to each other. Chinnaswami, then our cook, was not well and had to leave for Madras for treatment. "Would Shantamma kindly agree to stay and cook, if asked?" I heard him say. Kindly agree when I was dreaming of it! How merciful was Bhagavan! I was to stay for two months...and stayed forever.

I was put in charge of the cooking and Bhagavan would come often to help. Could I dream of greater happiness? He would get everything ready and tell me what to cook and how. With him near me I was tireless. No amount of work was too much for me. I did not even feel I was working. I worked with God! I was silently wondering at my great good fortune of being allowed to live and work in such a Great Presence!

One day, when I was still new in the kitchen, I served Bhagavan with a few more pieces of potato than the rest. Bhagavan noticed it and got very angry with me. He turned his face away and would not look at those who were serving food. I could not make out the cause of his anger and wondered who it was who had offended him. The women who worked in the kitchen would collect around him to take leave of him in the evening after the work was over. Usually he would exchange a few words with us, inquire who was accompanying us, whether we had a lantern, and so on. That evening he gave me a sign to come near.

"What did you do tonight ?"
       "I don't know, Swami, have I done something wrong?
"You served me more curry than others."
       "What does it matter? I did it with love and devotion."
"I felt ashamed to eat more than others. Have you come all this way to stuff me with food? You should always serve me less than others."
       "But, Bhagavan, how can I treat you worse than others?"
"Is this the way to please me? Do you hope to earn grace through a potato curry?"
       "Out of my love for you I committed a blunder.
       Forgive me, Bhagavan, I shall respect your wishes."
"The more you love my people, the more you love me," said Bhagavan, and the matter was closed. A good lesson was learned and never forgotten.


At that period of the Ashram's life, Bhagavan used to be unusually active, working both in the kitchen and outside. He would clean grain, shell nuts, grind seeds, stick together the leaf plates we ate from, and so on. We would join him in every task and listen to his stories, jokes, reminiscences and spiritual teachings. Occasionally he would scold us lovingly like a mother. All Vedanta I learned from him in easy and happy lessons. At every hour and place, at each task, the work was from him or for him and thus between us an unending link was forged. He was always in the center. It was easy for us to keep our minds on him. It was impossible to do anything else, for we had to refer to him all the time. All initiative and responsibility were his. He would attend to everything. Whatever trouble cropped up during cooking or in daily life, we had only to mention it to him and he would set it right. Everything we did, every problem we faced, was made use of in teaching the art of total reliance on him.

As soon as Chinnaswami became the Sarvadhikari (general manager) of the Ashram, he was full of zest and declared that henceforth adequate meals were to be served in the Ashram, even if it meant buying and storing foodstuffs. Bhagavan used to make fun of him: "Well, store up, go on storing. Have rice from Nellore, dhal from Virudupatti, all the best and the costliest." The Ashram was growing, the number of visitors increasing, and prepared food was needed at all hours, so the Sarvadhikari was allowed to have his way.

Shantammal, Ramana Smrti Souvenir

How Sundarammal Came to the Ashram

During April, 1953, Sundarammal arrived [at Arunachala] to spend forty-eight days in retreat in a hut close to that of Lakshmi Devi, for whom she had a great admiration. We were thus living very close to each other, but apart from the customary greetings, neither she nor I made any attempt to get into conversation.

One day, towards the end of her retreat, she invited me and some other sadhus to share a meal at her cell. It was the Telugu New Year's Day. It was then, before the meal began, that she told me her story.

She belonged to a wealthy Telugu family of Madras. She married young but very soon lost her husband. As a widow, she continued to live at home, surrounded by the love of her parents and brothers. She rarely went out, and when she did, it was always with her father. One day he took her to the neighboring temple to hear a talk given by a sadhu. This sadhu was a devotee of the Maharshi. He told his audience about the sage's 'conversion', his disappearance from the world [leaving Madurai], his resort to the mountain of Arunachala, and the rest. Sundarammal was deeply moved. She begged her father to allow her to accompany some pilgrims to Arunachala. He refused, but promised that he would soon take her there himself.

But the promise was not fulfilled. Sundarammal passed the time thinking of Ramana and praying to him. She soon lost her appetite and was unable to sleep. But her father always had some specially urgent work which prevented him from taking her to Tiruvannamalai.

One afternoon, about four o'clock, she seemed to see Ramana coming down the mountain and approaching her. "Sundarammal, have no fear!" he said to her. "It is I. Enough of this weeping and not eating or sleeping. Come, I am expecting you." Her heart was filled with joy. Once more she appealed to her father, and once more he put off the pilgrimage to another day.

Some weeks later, she was alone one night in her room, weeping and calling on the Maharshi. Then, quite worn out, she fell asleep. Suddenly she felt a blow on her side and awoke with a start. It was about three o' clock in the morning. There was the Maharshi standing by the head of her cot. "Come," was all he said.

She followed him downstairs, crossed the hall and came out on the verandah. Hardly had she reached it when to her alarm she found herself alone. The Maharshi had disappeared. She sat down uneasily.

Soon a rickshaw appeared and the rickshaw puller said: "Is this Number 12, and are you Sundarammal? An old sadhu told me to come here and take you to the bus. Get in." Sundarammal thought quite simply, "It is Bhagavan, the Maharshi," and got into the rickshaw.

At the bus stand she and the rickshaw puller were both surprised not to find the old sadhu. However, she asked for the Tiruvannamalai bus and got in.

Somewhere on the way her bus passed another one from which someone alighted and then entered the Tiruvannamalai bus. "Are you Sundarammal?" he asked. "Yes, I am," she replied. "Good. Bhagavan has sent me to look for you."

In the evening she reached Tiruvannamalai and retired for the night in one of the large halls kept for pilgrims. She prepared a cake to offer to Bhagavan and fell asleep full of joy.

The next morning she went to the Ashram and fell at the feet of Bhagavan. "Here you are at last," he said to her.

Some days later her brothers arrived, unable to understand how this child, who by herself had never set foot outside her home, could have managed to reach Tiruvannamalai. But Sundarammal was so deeply absorbed that she never even saw her brothers, either in the hall or at midday in the dining hall. Only in the evening were they able to approach her. They told her how upset everyone was at home and begged her to return. If she wanted, they would build her a hermitage in the garden. But nothing moved her and the brothers even spoke of taking her home by force. "If you do, I will throw myself into a well," she said. Her brothers had to yield, but they soon returned with their father. They found her in a cottage near the Ashram and arranged for her continued stay there as well as they could.

During the fifteen years that remained of the Maharshi's life, she never left Tiruvannamalai even for a day.

This was the story that Sundarammal told me that morning—Sundarammal who could never speak of God without her voice breaking with emotion and her eyes filling with tears.

Swami Abhishiktananda

Sampurnamma's Story

To the poet the Maharshi was an inspired poet; to the scholar, an endless ocean of knowledge; to the Yogi, a supreme adept established in Divine Union. Everyone who approached him with humility and faith, saw something of themselves reflected back, with greater insight and clarity. It is no wonder that those uneducated but spiritually mature women who served him by cooking in the kitchen saw him as a flawless cook who taught the highest wisdom in simple kitchen chores. Sampurnamma diligently served Bhagavan in the kitchen for many years and still lives in Sri Ramanasramam today. She can be seen in the Ashrama with cane in hand, walking slowly with short steps, bent, and wearing a well-used white sari which is draped over the top of her head. When you speak to her, a beautiful smile lights up her face. In reminiscences from an interview, Sampurnamma tells us her story.

Bhagavan was born in the village next to ours and my people knew him from his earliest childhood. When he became a great saint with an Ashrama at Tiruvannamalai, my relatives used to go there often, for they were quite devoted to him. I was busy with my household and was not interested in going with them. When my husband died, I was in despair and thought life not worth living. My people were urging me to go to Ramanasramam to get some spiritual guidance from Bhagavan, but I was not in the mood to go anywhere.

In 1932 my sister and her husband, Narayanan, were going to see Bhagavan and I agreed to go with them. We found Bhagavan in a palm leaf hut built over his mother's samadhi (place of burial). Some devotees and visitors were with him and all were having their morning coffee. Dandapani Swami introduced me to Bhagavan, saying: "This is Dr. Narayanan's wife's sister." As soon as I was introduced, Bhagavan gave a happy smile and said, "Varatoom, varatoom. (She is welcome, she is welcome.)" When I was able to sit for long hours in Bhagavan's presence my mind would just stop thinking and I would not notice the time passing. I was not taught to meditate and surely did not know how to stop the mind from thinking. It would happen quite by itself, by his grace. I would sit, immersed in a strange state in which the mind would not have a single thought and yet which would be completely clear. Those were days of deep and calm happiness. My devotion to Bhagavan took firm roots and never left me.

I stayed for twenty days. When I was leaving, Bhagavan got a copy of Who am I? and gave it to me with his own hands. When I returned to my village I was restless. I had all kinds of dreams. I would dream that a pious lady would come to take me to the Ashrama, or that Bhagavan was enquiring after me and calling me. I longed to go again to Ramanasramam. My uncle was leaving for Arunachala and I eagerly accepted his offer to take me with him. On my arrival I was asked to help in the kitchen because the lady in charge of cooking had to leave for her home. I gladly agreed, for it gave me a chance to stay at the Ashrama and to be near Bhagavan.

Bhagavan as Cook, how he ate
In the beginning I was not good at cooking. The way they cooked in the Ashrama was different from ours. But Bhagavan was always by my side and gave me detailed instructions. His firm principle was that health depended on food and could be set right and kept well by a proper diet. He also believed that fine grinding and careful cooking would make any food easily digestible. So we used to spend hours on grinding and stewing. He would sit in the middle of the kitchen, watching and offering suggestions. He paid very close attention to proper cooking. I would give him food to taste while it was cooking, to be sure that the seasoning was just right. He was always willing to leave the Old Hall to give advice in the kitchen. Amidst pots and pans he was relaxed and free. He would teach us numberless ways of cooking grains, pulses and vegetables, the staples of our South Indian diet. He would tell us stories from his childhood, or about his mother, her ways and how she cooked. He would tell me: "Your cooking reminds me of Mother's cooking. No wonder, our villages were so near." I think Bhagavan must have learned cooking from his mother, for if I made some dish very well, while testing it he would exclaim, "Ha, you have made this dish just like Mother used to make it." And whenever my going home was mentioned he would say: "Oh, our best lady cook wants to go away."

In the kitchen he was the Master Cook, aiming at perfection in taste and appearance. One would think that he liked good food and enjoyed a hearty meal. Not at all. At dinner time he would mix up the little food he would allow to be put on his leaf - the sweet, the sour and the savory, everything together- and gulp it down carelessly as if he had no taste in his mouth. When we would tell him that it was not right to mix such nicely made up dishes, he would say: "Enough of multiplicity. Let us have some unity."

When I think of it now, I can see clearly that he used the work in the kitchen as a background for spiritual training. He taught us to listen to every word of his and to carry it out faithfully. He taught us that work is love for others, that we never can work for ourselves. By his very presence he taught us that we are always in the presence of God and that all work is His. He used cooking to teach us religion and philosophy.

He would allow nothing to go to waste. Even a grain of rice or a mustard seed lying on the ground would be picked up, dusted carefully, taken to the kitchen and put in its proper tin. I asked him why he gave himself so much trouble for a grain of rice. He said: "Yes, this is my way. Everything is in my care and I let nothing go to waste. In these matters I am quite strict. Were I married, no woman could get on with me. She would run away." On some other day he said: "This is the property of my Father Arunachala. I have to preserve it and pass it on to His children." He would use for food things we would not even dream of as edible; wild plants, bitter roots and pungent leaves were turned under his guidance into delicious dishes.

Once a feast was being prepared for his birthday. Devotees sent food in large quantities: some sent rice, some sugar, some fruits. Someone sent a huge load of brinjals and we ate brinjals day after day. The stalks alone made a big heap which was lying in a corner. Bhagavan asked us to cook them as a curry! I was stunned, for even cattle would refuse to eat such useless stalks. Bhagavan insisted that the stalks were edible, and we put them in a pot to boil along with dry peas. After six hours of boiling they were as hard as ever. We were at a loss what to do, yet we did not dare to disturb Bhagavan. But he always knew when he was needed in the kitchen and he would leave the Hall even in the middle of a discussion. A casual visitor would think that his mind was all on cooking. In reality his grace was on the cooks. As usual he did not fail us, but appeared in the kitchen. "How is the curry getting on?" he asked.

"Is it a curry we are cooking? We are boiling steel nails!" I exclaimed, laughing.

He stirred the stalks with the ladle and went away without saying anything. Soon after, we found them quite tender. The dish was simply delicious and everybody was asking for a second helping. Bhagavan challenged the diners to guess what vegetable they were eating. Everybody praised the curry and the cook, except Bhagavan. He swallowed the little he was served in one mouthful like a medicine and refused a second helping. I was very disappointed, for I had taken so much trouble to cook his stalks and he would not even taste them properly. The next day he was telling somebody: "Sampurnamma was distressed that I did not eat her wonderful curry. Can she not see that everyone who eats is myself? And what does it matter who eats the food? It is the cooking that matters, not the cook or the eater. A thing done well, with love and devotion, is its own reward. What happens to it later matters little, for it is out of our hands."

It was clear that Bhagavan did not want me to treat him differently from others and would set me right by refusing to touch the very thing I was so proud of and eager to serve.


Subbalakshmi Taken To Her Goal

Ramana Maharshi Reading The next day at noon I was again at Ramanasramam. His midday meal over, Bhagavan was reclining on the sofa and explaining a verse from the Bhagavad Gita to Sri Ramiah Yogi. As no one else was in the hall, I gathered courage and asked: "What is Atma? Is it the limitless ether of space or the awareness that cognizes everything?" Bhagavan replied: "To remain without thinking 'this is Atma' and 'that is Atma', is itself Atma." He looked at me and I felt my mind melt away into nothing. No thought would come, only the feeling of immense, unutterable peace. My doubts were cleared.

Every day I would visit Bhagavan and listen to his talks with the devotees. Deep in my mind there was the same rock-like stillness, immensely solid and yet strangely vibrant.

Several times I was invited to work in the Ashrama, but the Ashrama ways were not orthodox enough for me. One day Bhagavan's own sister asked me to take her place in the Ashrama, for she had to leave for some time. I could not refuse. At that time Shantammal was the chief cook and my duty was to help her. To my great joy Bhagavan was in the kitchen with us most of the time. He taught me to cook tastily and neatly. I would spend all day in the Ashrama and in the evening I would go to the town to sleep, for there was no sleeping accommodation for women in the Ashrama.

Once Bhagavan said: "You widows do not eat vegetables like drumsticks and radish. Diet restrictions are good to strengthen the will. Besides, the quality of food and the manner of eating have an influence on the mind." I was very happy to work in the kitchen directly under Bhagavan's supervision; yet I wanted to go home. The Ashrama ways were too unorthodox for me. And there was too much work. I did not want to work all day long. I wanted to sit quietly and meditate in solitude.

So I left again for my village and I went away for about a year. I divided my time between idleness and meditation. Yet my heart was at the Ashrama. I would tell myself: "Where is the need of running about. Is not Bhagavan here and everywhere?" But my heart was calling me to Bhagavan. Even when I was pleading with myself, that in the Ashrama there would be no time for meditation, my heart would say: "Working in the kitchen by his side is far better than meditation." At home I had all the leisure I wanted, but it seemed to me that I was wasting my time.

Later I learned that that was the time Bhagavan used to remember me very often. Once they were preparing pongal (pulse with rice and black pepper) to celebrate Bhagavan's monthly birth-star (Punarvasu) and Bhagavan told Shantammal: "Subbalakshmi is far away yet she worries whether pongal is cooked here today or not." On some other festival day Bhagavan announced: "Subbalakshmi will turn up; keep some pongal for her." That very day I arrived at the Ashrama.

He was the very embodiment of wisdom and kindness, though he did not mind our faults and mistakes; he made us follow his instructions to the letter. We had to do the same task again and again until it was done to his complete satisfaction. Did he do it for himself? Of what use was it to him? He wanted to prove to us that we could do things right, that only lack of patience and attention causes all the mess. He sometimes seemed too severe, even harsh, to make us do something correctly, for he knew what we did not know - that we can act correctly if we only try. With experience came confidence, and with confidence the great peace of righteousness.

In daily life he avoided all distinction. At work and at food he was one of us. But in the hall, seated on the sofa, he was the great Lord of Kailas, the Holy Mountain. Whenever Bhagavan would enter or leave the hall, we would all get up respectfully. One could see that he did not like so many people being disturbed because of him.

He wanted us to learn well the lesson that God is present in every being in all his glory and fullness and must be given equal reverence. He was tireless in hammering this lesson into our minds and hearts, and he would ruthlessly sacrifice the little comforts we so loved to provide for him, as soon as he noticed a trace of preference. The law that what cannot be shared must not be touched was supreme in his way of dealing with us. Separative and exclusive feelings are the cause of the "I" and therefore the greatest obstacles in the realization of the One. No wonder he was exterminating them so relentlessly.

One had to live and work with him to know what a great teacher he was. Through the trifles of daily life he taught us Vedanta in theory and practice. He led us with absolute wisdom and infinite kindness and we were changed to the very root of our being, not even knowing the depth and scope of his influence. It is only now, after so many years, that we can see the meaning of the orders, prohibitions, scoldings and storms that we had to endure. At that time we understood so little and just obeyed, because we felt that he was God. Even that feeling we owed to his grace, for from time to time he would let us see him as he really was, the Lord Almighty, and not the human frame to which we were accustomed.

We were women, simple and uneducated. It was our love for him, a reflection of his love, that chained us to his feet and made us stay. For him we gave up hearth and home and all our earthly ties. We only knew that we were safe with him, that in some miraculous way he would take us to our goal. He himself was our goal, our real home. More than that we did not know or care. We were even slow to learn the lesson of equality to man and beast which he was so anxious to teach us first. To us he alone existed. The radiant form of Ramana was enough for us. We did not know that it was not enough, that a human soul must learn to embrace the universe and realize its own presence in every living being. We would concentrate too much on him and resent his compelling us to enlarge our little circle. His sometimes harsh treatment would bewilder us and make us cry. Now we see that it was love that suffered as it laboured.

Yogis control themselves severely for long to reach the state to which Bhagavan would take us by making us work near him in the kitchen. The small tasks of daily life he would make into avenues to light and bliss. Whoever has not experienced the ecstasy of grinding, the rapture of cooking, the joy of serving iddlies to devotees, his devotees, the state when the mind is in the heart and the heart is in him and he is in the work, does not know how much bliss a human heart contains.

Although physically he is no more with us, he still directs us, as in the past. He will not let go his hold on us until we reach the Other Shore. This is our unshaken faith. We may not always be conscious of his guidance, but we are safe in his hands.

Sri Krishna, in His mercy became a cowherd to teach simple milkmaids the way to salvation. Similarly Bhagavan, the same Supreme Being in another form, took to cooking in order to save a few ignorant women. With his eyes he served his devotees the food of the spirit, with his hands - the bread of life.


Gods Visit In The Forms of Beggars

During the Kartikai Festival beggars from all over South India would collect at Tiruvannamalai in vast crowds and they would flock to the Ashram for an assured meal. Once they became so unruly that the attendants refused to serve them. The matter was discussed among the workers and it was decided to abandon the distribution of food to beggars.

That night I had the following dream: Bhagavan's Hall was full of devotees. On the sofa appeared a small creature which gradually grew until it became a huge, bright-red horse. The horse went round the Hall, sniffing at each devotee in turn. I was afraid he would come near me, but the horse went to Bhagavan, licked him all over the body and disappeared. Bhagavan called me near and asked me not to be afraid. A divine perfume emanated from him. He said: "Don't think it is an ordinary horse. As soon as the flags are hoisted at Arunachaleshwara Temple for the Kartikai festival, gods come down to partake in the celebrations. They join the crowd and some mix with the beggars at the Ashram gate. So never stop feeding sadhus and beggars at festivals." I told the dream to Chinnaswami Swami, and that day he ordered seven measures of rice to be cooked for the beggars.


Of Animals

Once a little deer found her way to Bhagavan and would not leave him. She would go with him up the hill and gambol around him and he would play with her for hours. About a year later she ran away into the jungle and some people must have pelted her with stones, for she was found severely wounded with her legs broken. She was brought to the Ashrama. Bhagavan kept her near him, dressed her wounds and a doctor set her broken bones. One midnight the deer crept onto Bhagavan's lap, snuggled up to him and died. The next day Bhagavan told me that the deer had died. I said: "Some great soul came to you as a deer to gain liberation from your hands." Bhagavan said: "Yes, it must be so. When I was on the hill, a crow used to keep me company. He was a rishi in a crow's body. He would not eat from anybody's hand but mine. He also died."

Once a garuda, a white-breasted eagle, which is considered holy in India, flew into the Hall and sat on the top of a cupboard near Bhagavan. After awhile it flew around him and disappeared. "He is a siddha (a saint endowed with supernatural powers) who came to pay me a visit," said Bhagavan most seriously.


At about 4 p.m. Sri Bhagavan, who was writing something intently, turned his eyes slowly towards the window to the north; he closed the fountain pen with the cap and put it in its case; he closed the notebook and put it aside; he removed his spectacles, folded them in the case and left them aside. He leaned back a little, looked up overhead, turned his face this way and that and looked here and there. He passed his hand over his face and looked contemplative. Then he turned to someone in the hall and said softly: "The pair of sparrows just came here and complained to me that their nest had been removed. I looked up and found their nest missing." Then he called for the attendant, Madhava Swami, and asked: "Madhava, did anyone remove the sparrows' nest?"

The attendant, who walked in leisurely, answered with an air of unconcern: "I removed the nests as often as they were built. I removed the last one this very afternoon."

M: That's it. That is why the sparrows complained. The poor little ones! How they take the pieces of straw and shreds in their tiny beaks and struggle to build their nests!

Attendant: But why should they build here, over our heads?

M: Well-well. Let us see who succeeds in the end. (After a short time Sri Bhagavan went out.)

At food time Bhagavan would ask to be served very little and he would carefully clear the plate of the last grain of food before getting up. Although he never asked us to do the same, I asked him: "If we clear our dining leaves so scrupulously, the dogs, cats, monkeys, rats and the ants will starve." Bhagavan answered: "Well, if you are so compassionate, why not feed the animals before taking food yourselves? Do you think they relish your scrapings?

Krishna Bhikshu, Sri Ramana Leela

A dog used to sleep next to Bhagavan, and there were two sparrows living at his side in the Hall. Even when people tried to drive them away they would come back. Once he noticed that the dog had been chased away. He remarked: "Just because you are in the body of a human you think you are a human being, and because he is in the body of a dog you think him a dog. Why don't you think of him as a Mahatma, and treat him as a great person. Why do you treat him like a dog?" The respect he showed to animals and birds was most striking. He really treated them as equals. They were served food first like some respected visitors, and if they happened to die in the Ashrama, they would be given a decent burial and a memorial stone. The tombs of the deer, the crow and the cow Lakshmi can still be seen in the Ashrama near the back gate.

Who knows in how many different forms - animal, human, and divine beings visited this embodiment of the Almighty! We, common and ignorant women knew only the bliss of his presence and could not tear ourselves away from the Beloved of all, so glorious he was. It has been sixty years, I think, since I came. The days I spent with Bhagavan are memorable days indeed. Somehow, in my old age, I am pulling on with Bhagavan in my heart and his name on my tongue.


Magic of the Sun Mantra

Learning to Tolerate Great Heat

Many years later, when Jagadisha Sastri and I were walking down a street together in Bombay, it occurred to me that I had never seen him wear any kind of footwear. The black tar roads of the city got very hot in the summer and I found it hard to believe that anyone could walk comfortably without wearing sandals or shoes. I turned to him and asked, "Sastriji, your feet must have got burned a lot walking on these roads, isn't that so?" "No, no," he answered, "I have already got ravi raksha (protection from the sun) from Bhagavan. I may walk in any amount of heat but nothing ever happens to me."

I naturally asked, "How did you get this ravi raksha?"

By way of an answer, Sastriji told me a long story. "One day, right in the middle of the afternoon, Bhagavan took his kamandalu, got up and told me, 'Jagadisha, come with me to walk about on the mountain.'

"'But it's so hot,' I protested. 'How can we move about in such weather?' I argued like this because I wanted to escape from the trip. "Bhagavan found my excuse unsatisfactory. 'You can move about in just the same way that I move about,' he said.

"'But my feet will burn!' I exclaimed. I didn't have any footwear with me and I didn't relish the idea of walking about over the burning rocks. "'Will my feet not burn as well?' replied Bhagavan, obviously feeling that this was not a serious obstacle. Bhagavan never wore any kind of footwear. He could walk on the toughest terrain in any weather without feeling the least discomfort. "'But yours is a different case,' I answered, alluding to the fact that Bhagavan never needed footwear.

"'Why? Am I not a man with two feet, just like you?' asked Bhagavan. 'Why are you unnecessarily scared? Come on! Get up!'

"Having realized that it was useless to argue any more, I got up and started walking with Bhagavan. The exposed stones had become so hot because of the severe heat of the sun that walking on them made my feet burn. For some time I bore the suffering, but when it became unbearable I cried out, 'Bhagavan, my feet are burning so much! I cannot walk one more step. Even standing here is difficult. On all sides it is raining fire!' "Bhagavan was not impressed. 'Why are you so scared?' he asked. "'If I remain in this terrible heat for any more time,' I replied, 'my head will crack open because of the heat and I will definitely die!' I was not joking. I really was afraid of dying.

"Bhagavan smiled and said in a very quiet and deep voice, 'Jagadisha, give up your fear and listen. You must have the bhavana (mental conviction and attitude) that you are the sun. Start doing japa (internal repetition) of the mantra Suryosmi (I am the sun) with the conviction that it is really true. You will soon see the effect of it. You yourself will become Surya Swarupa, that is, you will have the characteristics of the sun. Can the sun feel the heat of the sun?'

"I followed this instruction of Bhagavan and started doing japa of this sun mantra because there was no other way to be saved from the burning heat. In a short time I began to feel the effect of the japa. The severity of the heat lessened and eventually I began to experience, instead of the severe heat, a pleasing coolness. As the burning sensation diminished I found that I was able to walk quickly alongside Bhagavan. By the time we had both reached Skandashram I found that my feet were not at all burnt as I had continued the mantra japa right up till the end of the walk. "Later, I was astonished to discover that the effect of chanting this mantra was permanent. Though I no longer chant it, I have never again suffered from the heat of the sun. I can now walk in the summer on the tar roads of a city like Bombay with bare feet."

Chhaganlal V. Yogi

When I cooked, Bhagavan would come to the kitchen to taste the food and see whether the seasoning was just right. Once he said: "The Maharajas employ special taste experts and pay them huge salaries. I wonder what will be my pay.

"I am a beggar, Bhagavan, and all a beggar can offer is her life," I said, and Bhagavan nodded lovingly.


Meeting Devotees Needs

Another time, I came to Bhagavan on my way to Madras where I wanted to try for a job. When I got up after prostrating, Bhagavan asked me, "Males can go anywhere and eke out a livelihood, but what arrangements have you made for your wife and children?" I replied, "I have provided for them." I stayed for a few days with Bhagavan and then went away to Madras. A few days later my elder brother visited Bhagavan and Bhagavan made kind enquiries of him whether my wife and children were getting on well, without any hardship. My brother told him, "He left some money when he started for Madras. All that has been exhausted now and they are suffering great hardship," and went away to Madurai.

When, after making some efforts for a job at Madras, I returned to Bhagavan he said, "You told me you had provided for your wife and children. Your elder brother told me they are undergoing hardship." I did not reply, for Bhagavan knows all and is also all powerful. I again went to Madras, and finding my efforts for a job there were in vain, returned to Bhagavan and stayed with him for some time.

During that time, one night, when I was sleeping outside on a double cot that was lying there, Bhagavan suddenly came and sat near my feet. Seeing this I got up. Bhagavan asked me, "What is the matter with you? Are you restless and not getting sleep because of your family troubles? Would it be enough for you if you get rupees 10,000?" I kept silent.

Once when Bhagavan and I were going round the hill he said, "There are herbs on this hill which could transmute base metals into gold." Then also I kept silent.

Bhagavan used often to joke with me and laugh asking "Oh! Are you suffering very much?" He then told me, "When a man sleeps he dreams he is being beaten and that he is suffering terribly. All that would be quite real at that time. But when he wakes up he knows it was only a dream. Similarly when Jnana dawns, all the miseries of this world would appear to be merely a dream."

In a few days, I returned to Madurai and through a friend got a manager's job in a motor company. Later, I was also appointed as an agent for the sale of buses in Ramnad and Madurai by another company, with a commission of 5 percent on all sales effected by me. From this and in other ways I got rupees 10,000; and I spent them on the marriages of two of my daughters and for clearing off debts. I never used to mention my family troubles to Bhagavan, nor ask Him for anything. He was himself looking after me and my family, so why should I make any requests for this or that in particular? I left everything to him. I used to tell Bhagavan frequently, "I have entrusted my body, possessions, soul, all to Bhagavan. The entire burden of my family is hereafter yours. I am hereafter only your servant, doing only your behests. I am a puppet moved by your strings." Bhagavan used to laugh and say "Oh, Oh." It never occurred to me to ask him for any wealth.

Yogi Ranganathan

When I first came to Bhagavan, I saw a bright light, like the sun, and Bhagavan was in the midst of it. Later on I used to see a light between my eyebrows. Once I saw a big light come out from Bhagavan's head and fill the hall. In that light everything disappeared, including Bhagavan. Only the feeling of 'I' was floating in the luminous void.


Beauty of a Devotee's Soul

Passages from the Diary of a Pilgrim to Sri Ramanasramam

January 8, 1983 - Our trip to Madras

The pleasant taxi ride which Paul, Ganesan and I were enjoying on the way to Madras became a nightmare when at Chingleput our driver took a drink of some narcotic. However, good fortune was the final result of our misfortune for we were forced by circumstance to spend the night in the home of the President's [Sri T. N. Venkataraman's] daughter, Lakshmi.

Lakshmi's sublime devotion to Sri Bhagavan made a sweet and very deep impression on me. She was elated and enraptured to be visited by Bhagavan's devotees. The devotion with which she one-pointedly served all and the way she later kept me up during the night to talk of Bhagavan deeply inspired me. Her dedicated and devoted presence uplifted us all immensely.

I entered Lakshmi's kitchen and saw on her shrine the two cutting knives I had brought to India. "I brought these for you," I said.

Looking at me with her deep, dark eyes she replied, "Your presence is the greatest gift for us." Extremely fatigued, I looked away and she caught my eyes again, "Do you understand?" she said most tenderly, pressing my arm with her hand.

Lakshmi served dinner in the traditional manner: she remained standing and waited on all, refusing to eat herself. She seemed to know the want of each. Her food was delicious and mild. It had the mark of being prepared by a devotee, for it was so light and pleasing.

At night Lakshmi and I stayed up to share some of our experiences before falling asleep. She seemed never to tire of offering little services! She placed water by my side just in case I became thirsty in the middle of the night; she offered to rub my temples with oil, thinking I must have had a headache after our going about Madras during the day in the heat. In fact, while I thought I was drifting off to sleep I heard her voice: "Oh, how I feel like staying up with you to talk! Please, tell me something about yourself, your Ashrama and Bhagavan!" I opened my eyes and found her leaning close to me in the dark!

Lakshmi was nine years old when Bhagavan left the body and is the eldest sister of the family. "Bhagavan must have been like a father for you," I said.

"Bhagavan was everything to us," she exclaimed, her eyes shining in the dark, "even though we were playful children, he was our mother, father, brother, sister, grandfather - everything!"

"I must have been an Indian in my former birth," I mused, "because when I am here with devotees like you I feel so happy and light."

"Where is India and where is America?" she cried out, putting her face nearer to mine, "We are all only with Bhagavan, wherever we may be!"

That night Lakshmi confided openly about the hardship she and all her sisters experienced on leaving Sri Ramanasramam after their marriages. Maybe in the end they will all return there, I thought.

The next morning she insisted that I sit with her again in the kitchen as she prepared dosais for us. Though her cooking was so light and delightful she apologized for it and said, "I am not at all talented."

She served us with so much kindness and love that upon our leaving I saw her eyes rimmed in tears. In her life I could see and feel a cool, gentle breeze of devotion issuing out from a heart filled with the holy presence of Bhagavan. Only by Bhagavan's grace can we meet such pure and humble souls.

Evelyn Kaselow Saphier

Ramdas Sees All As God

In the course of one of these stories Ramdas told me how he came to Arunachala and saw Bhagavan. When he was a mendicant and was traveling to all the holy places, he heard of Arunachala. He had also heard of Ramana Maharshi, but to see him was not the main purpose of his visit to Tiruvannamalai. Soon after reaching there he came to Ramanasramam and stood before the Maharshi, who was then sitting on a raised platform. Ramdas said that he felt Bhagavan's grace pouring out through his eyes and filling him. After having Bhagavan's darshan he went up on the hill and resided in a cave and performed continuous round-the-clock japa. He said that by doing this constant japa he lost his mind and after two weeks the universal vision of God appeared to him. In other words, he saw everything as God. Since that day, he said, he has been living in Ram.

Ramdas had received the Ram Mantra from his father and he was one of those few great souls who could execute his sadhana to completion without the help of a physical guru.

Recollections of N. Balaram Reddy

Is There Time or Space For Me?

After the breakfast was finished, I purchased a photo of Sri Ramana from the book stall of the ashram. I desired to get it from the hands of the sage himself. Carrying it in my hands I went into the hall and prostrated to Sri Ramana, who was seated in jagrat state. There was no one else in the hall on that occasion. That was a surprise to me. I told him that I had purchased his photo and that I desired to receive it from his hands. Having said so, I gave the photo to him. He graciously stretched his hands and took it from me and looked at it for half a minute without saying any word by word of mouth. He was pleased to give it back to me. I received it with great satisfaction.

Then, I wanted to obtain his blessings before I left the ashram. So, I went near him once again and stood for a minute looking at him. I addressed him and said in English, "Bhagavan, I have enjoyed great peace in your presence. Permit me to return to Bangalore. May I know if I can receive your help when I reach Bangalore? I pray for your benediction." The benevolent sage was till then reclining on the sofa. He dramatized the parting scene. He sat up vertically on the sofa and with a kind but loud tone he said in English as follows: "What? Is there time, place or distance for me?" After putting this question to me, he reclined on the pillows of the sofa and closed his eyes. His words and gestures were charming, instructive and benevolent. They indicated perpetual compassion and love of all who pray for his aid. His gracious words are ringing in my ears, even after thirty-four years.

T. S. Anantha Murthy, The Life and Teachings of Sree Ramana Maharshi

Sacred Arunachala in the Morning Mist
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