Author Topic: Ramana Maharshi Devotee Swami Pranavananda  (Read 1446 times)

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Ramana Maharshi Devotee Swami Pranavananda
« on: April 30, 2010, 01:13:33 PM »
Swarni Pranavananda was one of the earliest devotees to come to Bhagavan. He visited Bhagavan in 1910, in the Virupaksha Cave. His integrity and strong spiritual aspirations earned him an enviable place among Bhagavan's devotees. He was one of Bhagavan's intimate companions. His love for Bhagavan was so great that he surrendered himself unconditionally at Bhagavan's feet, relinquishing all worldly attachments, and this filled his heart with joy and peace. He was very modest and never spoke about himself and his speech was restricted to the barest minimum. Though he did not consider himself a teacher, his life itself served as a valuable lesson in spirituality.

Pranavananda belonged to the Sarvepalli family, which was highly esteemed in the village of Venkatapuram, near Tiruttani in South India. The Sarvepalli family was a stronghold of learning in the Vedas, sastras and puranas. The family deity was Lord Yoganarasimha of Sholingapuram, and Pranavananda was named Narasimham after the family deity. He took the name of Swami Pranavananda at the time of becoming a sannyasi.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the world famous philosopher and one of the most illustrious Presidents of India, was Narasimham's nephew. Surprisingly enough, Dr. Radhakrishnan, who is esteemed for his erudition and wisdom, was rather dull as a child. His father was very much upset by Radhakrishnan's nature, and concerned about his future. Narasimham offered to take the boy to Vellore and take care of his education. Upon reaching Vellore, Narasimham initiated his nephew in the Ramataraka Mantram. Constant repetition of this potent Mantram resulted in the blossoming of Radhakrishnan's intellect and he grew into a brilliant student. He joined the Uris College in Vellore and passed his Intermediate course. By taking care of Radhakrishnan during the formative years of his life, and by helping him through the initial stages of his academic career, Narasimham can be said to have laid the foundation for Radhakrishnan's success in later life.

The S'arvepalh family was not a wealthy one. It is said that though Goddess Saraswati (the Goddess of Learning) showered Her Grace upon the family. Goddess Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) looked askance at them! Though they were never reduced to extreme poverty, the family never enjoyed the comforts of affluence. With the intention ofacqiringsome wealth, some members of the Sarvepalli family migrated to Madras, where they were able to make some money by giving discourses in sastras and puranas. Later on, some of the members settled down in Tiruttani. Narasimham was well versed in the three South Indian languages namely Telugu, Tamil and Kannada. He was also a Sanskrit scholar. Ironically enough, Narasimham did not get through the Matriculation Examination, but his scholarship in English was remarkable. Englishmen themselves used to marvel at his mastery over the language!

Narasimham joined the Arcot Christian College as a teacher. The authorities were so impressed by his scholarship and his capacity as a teacher that they appointed him as a Munshi (a teacher who trained foreigners in the use of local languages) to teach Telugu and English to the members of the mission and the managers of the institutions under their care.

Narasimham also trained some of the members of the mission in the techniques of meditation. Some of his students, like Paul Adiseshayya and Ida Scudder (who founded the CMC Hospital in Vellore) were so impressed by the clarity of thought obtained through meditation that they were prepared to embrace Hinduism if Narasimham advised them to do so. Narasimham did not believe in religious conversions, and did not think that only Hindus could benefit from meditation. He declared that one could meditate on God even if one did not profess any religion. He told his students that one could serve mankind and live in peace even if one did not belong to any recognised religion. Narasimham's beliefs and his teachings astonished the authorities of the mission.

Narasimham made several visits to the Vellore Central Jail, to meet the prisoners and to talk to them about moral values. He initiated the prisoners into the Ramataraka mantram and persuaded them to give up their lawless ways. Through his influence, Narasimham helped in reforming and rehabilitating many of the criminals in the jail. He left the Mission because of some difference of opinion with the authorities, and took up the job of Munshi in the Police Training College. Many of the Europeans who came to Vellore during that period had the good fortune to learn the local language from Narasimham. Those who were spiritually inclined found an able guide in him, and his classes became very popular satsangs (spiritual congregations). Very soon, Narasimham gained the reputation of a capable teacher and a spiritual guide.

While Narasimham was serving as a Munshi in Vellore, Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni was working as a Telugu Teacher in the same town. In 1910, Narasimham and Ganapati Muni went to Tiruvannamalai and met Bhagavan. At that time, Bhagavan was staying in the Virupaksha Cave. In the very first meeting, Bhagavan's look of grace entered deep into Narasimham's heart and destroyed all the doubts that had been troubling him till then. From that moment onwards, Narasimham's heart was full of peace.

Though Narasimham had originally accepted Ganapati Muni as his guru, he was proud to declare himself a devotee of Bhagavan Ramana. He led a very simple life; but he never hesitated to help those in need. Though his was a very modest house in a crowded street (named Avalkaran Veedhi), there were at least ten students staying with him at any given time. He boarded them free of charge, and his wife fed them all with the loving concern of a mother.Narasimham had no male issue. This fact did not bother him, but his wife longed for a son. One day, she requested Ganapati Muni to bless her with a male child. With the Muni's blessings, a baby boy was born, but he did not survive beyond early childhood.Narasimham's wife was an ardent devotee of Lord Yoganarasimha of Sholingapuram, and she often visited His temple on the Ghatikachalam hill. Late one evening, while she was sitting in meditation behind the idols of the Saptha Rishis (Seven Sages) the temple priests, who had not noticed her, locked up the temple for the night and went home. The lady claimed that, on that occasion. Lord Yoganarasimha Himself brought her out of the locked temple and sat her on the steps leading up the hill.Narasimham had no special feeling towards his family deity, Lord Yoganarasimha. His whole concentration was on the Vichara Marga (path of Self-enquiry) as taught by Bhagavan. In course of time, Narasimham renounced the world and became a Sannyasi, assuming the name of Swami Pranavananda. However, the ritual was a mere formality, as Narasimham had always been a Sannyasi at heart, living a life of detachment and devoting his time to spiritual pursuits.

Pranavananda considered Bhagavan the very personification of the Vedas and the Upanishads, and so he had great love and reverence for him. Bhagavan, too, had a special regard and concern for Pranavananda.

The following anecdote serves as an illustration of Bhagavan's concern for him: Pranavananda used to compile Bhagavan's teachings into books. One of the devotees owned a printing press, and he printed the books that were brought to him by Pranavananda. One hot summer afternoon, Pranavananda was returning to Tiruvannamalai with a copy of one of the books. He had just one rupee with him, and, not wanting to engage a bullock cart, he decided to walk to Ramanasramam. He somehow made it to the gate of the ashram, but the terrible heat had taken its toll-Pranavananda could not proceed any further. He sat down in the shade of a tree for a short rest before entering the ashram. At that moment, Bhagavan happened to look out of the window. Seeing Pranavananda's exhausted attitude, Bhagavan immediately came out to him. Sitting down beside him, Bhagavan poured cool water over Pranavananda's sore feet and spoke to him in gentle, compassionate tones, saying, "Why do you put yourself to such strain? Did I ever ask you to go out in this heat?" Such was the Masters concern for his disciples welfare!

Pranavanada was instrumental in printing several books of Bhagavan's teachings. He priced these books at half-anna or one anna and gave them to the ashram. It was his desire that Bhagavan's teachings should be made available to the maximum number of people at affordable cost. It was Pranavananada who first translated Bhagavan's Who am I?, Vicharasangraham, Vivekachudamani and Devikalottaram into Telugu. His style was very simple and lucid. In addition to these translations, Pranavananda also wrote several original books, including Rama-no. Maharshi Charitramu, Advaitabhoda Dipika, Tatwamali Dhyanamu, Sri Guru-Anugraha-avataramu, Dipamu Choodandi and Sri Ramana Stutipaatalu.

Pranavananda merged with Bhagavan in the year 1969, and his mortal remains were entombed on the banks of the River Palar, in Vellore. Though Pranavananda is no more with us, his memory lives on, through the numerous books he has written.

Sources:
1) http://www.arunachala.org/bookstall/books/reminiscences/cherished-m/ch-68/
2) Arunachala's Ramana Volume1 Book