Author Topic: Incidents Related during Ramana Maharshi's Stay In The Virupaksha Cave  (Read 1331 times)


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Soon after his mother and his brother returned home Sri Ramana left Pavalakkunru and moved up the hill. He lived for a short time in the Satguru Swami Cave on the south-eastern slope, then in the Namasivaya Cave. He finally settled down in the Virupaksha Cave,where he remained from 1899 to 1916.

At the time Ramana took up abode there nobody felt responsible for the Virupaksha math and the cave was empty. There was a lawsuit in progress between two different groups, who both claimed possession of, and the income from, the math. But as no decision had yet been made, nobody was caring for it. The issue of possession was, in fact, only resolved some years later. At the following Kartikai festival the successful litigants came up to the cave and started charging a fee to visit it. So access to the Swami who lived there suddenly became conditional upon payment of a fee, although he himself was not informed of the matter. As large numbers of people were now coming up to see him, quite a few had to go away disappointed when they were told they had to pay.

When Ramana heard about this practice, he left the cave and sat down under a tree. Those collecting the fees then declared this place also to be an outer area belonging to the math and continued to demand money from all those who wanted to approach him. He had no alternative, therefore, but to go away again. At first he lived in the Satguru Swami Cave which was lower down, then in another cave, consequently the Virupaksha Cave was no longer a source of revenue. The owners of the cave finally understood that they could not misuse the young Swami for their own purpose, so they gave up the fees they had collected and asked him to continue to live in the cave. As a result Ramana returned and stayed there until 1916.

In winter Virupaksha was a fine lodging, but not so in summer,when the adjoining riverbed dried up and there was not the slightest breeze. In addition, as there were almost no trees, the cave was exposed to the sun, so that it became unbearably hot.

A little higher up the hill, at the foot of a mango tree there was a cave known as the Mango Tree Cave. The nearby Mulaipal Teertham always had a supply of clean water. The first time Ramana had seen it, it had been uninhabitable. But since then two brothers had removed the overhanging rock, had built a small wall with a door and had made the cave inhabitable. They asked the Swami to use it, so he used to spend the summer months here.

Life at the Virupaksha Cave and Mango Tree Cave was rich in privations but carefree, as Ramana himself stated, “Palaniswami asked me to copy out and give him some stanzas of Shankara, but where were notebooks or paper with us at the time? I collected every scrap of paper I could, stitched them together into a notebook,wrote out the stanzas and gave them to him. At that time we had nothing but a pot; we did not have even a towel. In the early days of our stay in the Virupaksha Cave, Palaniswami alone had a towel to wrap around him. The cave had no iron doors then; it had a wooden door with a wooden latch. We would fasten it from the outside with a small stick, go around the hill, wander hither and yon, return after a week or ten days, then open the door with the help of another stick. That was our key at the time; no need to keep it anywhere! This notebook was the only article we took with us. As Palaniswami wore a towel, he used to fold the book and tuck it into his waist. That was enough for us.”

His loincloth was also in a poor state, “My koupina got torn. I do not usually ask anyone for anything. Bodily privacy has however to be maintained. Where could I get a needle and thread available to mend the koupina? At last, I got hold of a thorn, made a hole in it,took out a thread from the koupina itself, put it into the hole and
thus mended the cloth, and, so as to hide the place where it was mended, I used to fold it suitably before putting it on. Time passed like that. What did we need? Such were those days!”

Sri Ramana never wore shoes, not even during the hottest months.Rangan, a former classmate, reports, “When Bhagavan and I climbed up to the top of Arunachala, a thorn pricked my foot.Noting that I was lagging behind, Bhagavan removed it. A few yards later a big thorn pricked his foot. When I looked at his foot there were so many unremoved thorns in it. Then I examined the other foot, but the position was not different. ‘Which one will you remove, the new thorn or the old ones?’, he queried. He broke the thorn by pushing his foot to the ground and started walking again.”

There was no cooking in the Virupaksha Cave. Visitors used to bring milk, fruits, cake and other food. Gradually more followers came to live with Ramana and Palaniswami. Any food donated was always evenly distributed. But as it was not possible to rely on sufficient food for all being brought by visitors, Palaniswami and other devotees would go down to the town to beg for additional food. Then Ramana would mix up all the food donated, make a mash by pouring hot water over it and gave each one a glassful.Often there was not even any salt to flavour it, but Ramana thought it better to be without than to beg anyone for it, “If once we begin to ask for salt, we would feel like asking for dhal, and when we ask for dhal, we would feel like asking for payasam and so on. So we felt that we should not ask for anything, and swallowed the gruel as it was. We used to feel extremely happy over such diet.”

The begging mission to town followed a fix course. At least four of Ramana’s devotees started on their way, announcing their arri-val to the inhabitants by blowing their conches. They then went through the streets singing and collecting what was given to them.

Some days there was not enough of anything, on other days there was more than enough eatables. At times Ramana, so as not to disappoint anyone, ended up overeating. There is a well-known story of how one day he planned a day of fasting and started off early in the morning to walk alone on the hill. There he met several women who competed with each other to serve him food. He had to eat all that they served him. Some hours later he met them again and again they forced him to eat. Then he lay down in a mantapam to sleep. In the evening he wanted to return to the Virupaksha Cave when a devotee met him, bringing him mangoes cooked in rasam. He ate this too. Jokingly he said, “It is like the story of the man who fled the town of mice and found himself in the land of tigers.”

Sometimes people would also send their carriages to pick him up for a meal. But he always refused, as he feared that if he accepted there would be no end to the invitations.

Source: Ramana Maharshi: His Life A biography by Gabriele Ebert