Author Topic: Part 3- The Recollections of Ramana Maharshi Devotee N. Balaram Reddy  (Read 2113 times)


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Ganapati Muni

I never met Ganapati Muni, but I remember being with Kapali Sastri in Aurobindo Ashram when the news of his death arrived. I saw Sastri openly weep, lamenting the Muni's death. At that time Kapali Sastri had so much faith in Aurobindo and Mother, I heard him say, "If Nayana was here (at Aurobindo Ashram) he would not have died."

Bhagavan was once talking about him to me and said, "If Nayana had not come here (meaning to himself) and had his mind turned inwards to the Self, he would have certainly ended up in jail." Nayana had in his earlier years a predilection for political activity.

Aurobindo and the Mother recognized Ganapati Muni's extraordinary gifts. Kapali Sastri once took the Muni to Aurobindo Ashram and everyone there was eager that he should stay. He was given a royal welcome and offered a house and all the necessary conveniences for him and his family. Someone back at Sri Ramanasramam informed Bhagavan of how Nayana was being enticed to stay in Aurobindo Ashram. While this person was describing it all to Bhagavan, he expressed the opinion that Nayana, indeed, might very well settle down there. Bhagavan looked at the man in surprise and said, "Nayana ? Settle down at Aurobindo Ashram? Impossible!"

Learned Scholars

Many learned scholars and sannyasins would often visit Bhagavan and ask questions. Bhagavan's response to these visitors, and also to other visitors, was not always uniform. To some people he would give much attention, either by talking to them or pouring out his grace through a silent look; others he would stoically ignore. All these variations were not governed by status, wealth, or fame.

One morning a famous swami of Ahmedabad arrived at the ashram. I understood he had many wealthy disciples and was himself attired in a costly silk, ochre-colored cloth. He also had several pieces of luggage, which clearly indicated he was a man of some means. The swami came into the Guest House for Gentlemen and introduced himself to me. He wanted to know when he could see the Maharshi. I told him at 10 a.m. I would be going to the hall and he could accompany me and at that time I would introduce him to the Maharshi.

During that period, between 10 and 11 a.m. every morning in the Old Hall, Devaraja Mudaliar, Munagala Venkataramiah and I were going through Venkataramiah's English translation of a Tamil scripture. Bhagavan would open and hold the Tamil book in his hand and we would read the English translation for each verse. Then we would discuss it until we found it acceptable to Bhagavan.

The swami entered the hall with me at 10 a.m. and I introduced him to Bhagavan. He was fluent in Sanskrit and other languages, and also was well versed in all the scriptures. He inquired if he was allowed to ask a question. The consent was given and he asked Bhagavan if Ishwara, the personal God, actually existed. The Maharshi replied with one of his standard rejoinders: "We do not know about Ishwara or whether he exists or not. But what we do know is that we exist. Find out who that 'I' is that exists. That is all that is required."

The swami was not satisfied with this answer and continued to discuss the matter, quoting from various scriptures. Bhagavan then said, "If the scriptures say all this about it, why question me further?"

This also was not acceptable to the swami and he proceeded with more elucidation, at which point Bhagavan cut him off by turning to us and saying, "Come on. Let us begin our work." It is needless to say that the swami became quite annoyed and soon left the hall.

Later in the day I met him and he told me that my Maharshi doesn't seem to know very much. I simply replied, "Yes." And although this visitor was originally planning on staying for three days, he cut his visit short and left that very afternoon, without ever going back into the hall to see the Maharshi. Bhagavan later asked me what the swami said before leaving. When I told him, he simply smiled.

Another incident comes to my mind when yet one more learned swami visited Bhagavan. He questioned Bhagavan in Sanskrit and Bhagavan, once again, patiently answered in Malayalam, the swami's mother tongue. As the session continued it became clear that this swami's sole intention was to defeat Bhagavan in argument. Eventually Bhagavan said, "Will you be satisfied if I issue you a certificate stating you have defeated me in the argument?" But even that did not silence the swami's impertinence.

Jagadish Sastri, a Sanskrit pundit, was quietly listening to the proceedings. When he saw that the swami was incorrigible, he blurted out in Sanskrit, "He dushta bahirgachha," which means "O wicked man, get out!" I don't remember anyone ever making such an aggressive remark in the presence of Bhagavan. But it worked. The swami finally got the message and left the hall.

Once a group of influential devotees from Madras came up with a scheme to take Bhagavan away to Madras. In an attempt to execute this plan, a number of them arrived at the ashram and came into the hall. It wasn't long before they realized that Bhagavan would never consent to leave Ramanasramam, and eventually they left.

One old devotee was sitting in the corner of the hall quietly watching the whole drama unfold. He said nothing while the discussion was underway, though he was secretly in collusion with the group from Madras. After the group left, Bhagavan turned to one of his attendants and said, "Some people will sit quietly as if they have nothing to do with what is taking place before them. But on the contrary, they have everything to do with what is going on."

The old devotee questioned, "Bhagavan, are you testing me?"

Bhagavan simply remained silent. Any acts of insincerity were easily known to Bhagavan and he did not hesitate to point them out.

Foreigners and the English Language

Bhagavan was familiar with, and had respect for, the classical English works. He had read many English books and would daily read an English newspaper. W. Y. Evans-Wentz had given Bhagavan copies of his published books, and of these books Bhagavan liked best Tibet's Great Yogi, Melarepa. He once requested me to read it.

Although he read and understood English quite well, he rarely spoke it. If people spoke English to him with clear diction and pronunciation he would not have much trouble understanding them. Once he said to me, "I couldn't understand a word Chadwick said." Which shows he did fail to understand English at times if not spoken clearly.

The State of a Jnani

On another occasion there was a French visitor named Jean Herbert, who had written several books on India, its holy men, and ashrams, etc. I saw him while he was on his second visit to the ashram. During this visit he requested the publication rights of all of the ashram literature, as he planned on using this material in his books. The ashram authorities were at first enthusiastic about books being published in the West on Bhagavan and his teachings. I told Bhagavan that Jean Herbert also requested the same permission from Aurobindo Ashram, but they decided not to give it. Perhaps they felt he would exploit Aurobindo's writings. When I had told Bhagavan this, he requested me to go to the office and explain it to them. I did, and the permission was withheld.

In this way, I observed Bhagavan taking special interest in the affairs of the ashram and, at times, personally directing them. It might not always have been so apparent as in the two cases above, but it was, no doubt, forthcoming.

Though Bhagavan generally opposed any funds being solicited for the ashram, he did not object in all cases.

Krishnaprem visits the Ashram

After my visit with Krishnaprem in 1938, I had corresponded with him a few times. In each of his letters he promised that he would soon be coming to see the Maharshi. But he never came and I began to think that he would miss his chance to have darshan of Bhagavan. This all changed on a December morning in 1948.

I was sitting with my eyes closed next to Bhagavan, outside on the verandah. When I opened my eyes, who did I see sitting before me but Krishnaprem. I said to him, "You have finally come. Why didn't you write and let me know you were coming?"

He said, "After writing to you so many times and promising to come, but didn't, I was embarrassed to write you again."

During this visit, Krishnaprem handed over his small Gopala Krishna idol to Bhagavan. Bhagavan tenderly turned it this way and that, looking at it intently, and then returned it to Krishnaprem. In other places it has already been recorded about Krishnaprem's vision and inner experiences while sitting before Bhagavan in the Old Hall.

From Sri Ramanasramam he travelled to Sri Aurobindo's Ashram. After staying there a few days we planned that he and I would rendezvous at the Villupuram train station, from where we would depart together and travel south, visiting several famous temples and holy places. My train from Tiruvannamalai was scheduled to leave at 1 P.M. So, immediately after lunch I approached Bhagavan to take leave of him. He had just then finished his meal and was massaging his rheumatic knee joints—in his old age he had to do this prior to walking. I prostrated before him and informed him of my departure. He already knew all the details relating to this trip, and he also knew I was planning on visiting Kanyakumari. He said to me, "These people (meaning the management) have written to an advocate-devotee of Nagerkoil to send us the three different-coloured sands that are available at Kanyakumari. These are needed for the Kumbhabhishekam of the Matrubhuteswara Temple. So far, he has not sent them." Though Bhagavan did not say specifically that I should bring those sands, I naturally understood what was on his mind. In fact, he often employed this manner of speaking, asking us indirectly, when he wanted something done. Before leaving he also asked me to write and send him details about the pilgrimage.

When I arrived in Kanyakumari I discovered that the government had enforced a law prohibiting the removal of any sand from the beaches of Kanyakumari. Uranium, the mineral used for making atomic bombs, had been found in some of the sand. Nevertheless, I thought I should take my chances and stealthily proceeded to gather the three different sands. I filled three bags with the sands and concealed them in my bedroll. At the train station I hired a man to carry my bedroll and luggage and moved on towards the station gate. Standing at the gate, I saw the ticket collector and two policemen. The ticket collector was checking tickets and the policemen were checking baggage for illegal sand. I asked my man to stop and we both stood there momentarily as I contemplated the situation. Pondering over my next move, I mentally prayed to Bhagavan, "You wanted me to bring this sand. Now look at this—police! What am I to do?" As soon as I had prayed thus, the policemen, for some unknown reason, turned and looked in a certain direction and walked away from the gate. I immediately told my man, "Let's go," and we passed through the gate and boarded the train.

When I returned to the ashram and brought the bags of sands to Bhagavan, he called everyone around to come and look. Later, the sands expected from the advocate arrived by post, but the bags had broken en route and the three varieties of sands mixed, making them useless. When Bhagavan heard that he remarked, "If Balaram Reddy had not brought the sands, how could we have gotten a fresh consignment on time for the consecration ceremony?" Krishnaprem finally returned to North India after his tour of the South.