Author Topic: Ramana Maharshi Devotee Sri Mastan Swami  (Read 1799 times)


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Ramana Maharshi Devotee Sri Mastan Swami
« on: May 16, 2010, 09:18:24 AM »
Mastan himself had passed away in 1931, and he had received little more than passing mentions in the ashram books I had read. He was present on the famous occasion when the ashram was robbed in 1924, and also on the occasion when the golden mongoose visited Bhagavan at Skandashram.

Below relevant information is from Sadhu Om’s Tamil account of Akhilandamma.

Mastan, is a weaver who made the cloth for Bhagavan’s clothes, was born in 1878 in Desur, a small village about forty miles from Tiruvannamalai. He came from a Muslim family but was drawn to Bhagavan by Akhilandamma, a widow of the village who made regular trips to Tiruvannamalai to see Bhagavan and cook for him. A document preserved in the shrine where Mastan is buried states that at a very early age he would spontaneously fall into a samadhi-like state while he was working on the family loom. His hands and feet, which were plying the machinery of his trade, would stop and he would become absolutely still. His parents, Hussain and Salubi, thought that he was falling asleep on the job. Whenever they saw him in this condition, they would hit him, bring him back to his waking state, and tell him to get on with his work. These episodes seem to have been a recurring feature of his childhood. The notebook in which this story is recorded says the ‘he plunged into jnana’ on these occasions, making it clear that they were not just fainting fits.

Mastan himself made no mention of these dramatic experiences when he described his early years:

I came under the spell of bhakti before the age of twenty. During the Muharram festival I would put on the garb of a pandaram [a Saiva monk], smear vibhuti on myself, carry a begging bowl and roam around.

I discovered and read the verses of Gunagudi Mastan [a Muslim saint who probably lived during the early 19th century]. It occurred to me that at the following Muharram festival I should dress up as a pandaram and sing these verses. I obtained a copy of this book, read the portion entitled ‘Ecstatic Joy’ and tried to learn it by heart.

While I was doing this, it occurred to me that I should never again put on this pandaram outfit.

‘It is of no use,’ I thought. ‘I should, instead, seek liberation.’

For one year after this decision I didn’t sleep either during the day or the night. Most of the time I was going through Gunagudi Mastan’s verses. I also went through the poems and songs of Thayumanavar and Pattinathar.

There is one verse of Gunagudi Mastan that says: ‘O mind, is it possible to speak of the misery and desolation experienced by those who get wedded to women?’

This impressed me very much. There would be no marriage for me. When I became aware that my elder brothers, who were employed in the army, were making arrangements to get me married, I shuddered.

At the age of fifteen I lost my father, and when I was twenty-five my mother died. After these deaths I gave up the family weaving business. I had a Rs 100 debt from this work, but a devotee paid it off for me, freeing me from this occupation.

This is how Mastan described the meeting when he spoke to Kunju Swami:

When I came to Bhagavan, he was seated like a rock…. [His unwavering gaze] was filled with grace, compassion and steady wisdom. I stood by his side. After giving me a look, he opened the gate of my Heart and I was also established in his state. I stood like that for eight hours, absolutely without fatigue, but filled with total absorption and peace. Bhagavan in those days used to open our Heart with a simple gracious look, and it transformed us. There was no need for any questions since he made us, by his look, like himself.

Source: The Mountain Path, 1979, p. 154.

Akhilandamma describes how they(Mastan) used to come to Tiruvannamalai together:

Mastan and I would come to Arunachala from our village to have the pleasure of serving Bhagavan. Mastan, a weaver, belonged to our village, but he did not stick to his craft. A man of whims, he would suddenly suspend his weaving and go to live with Bhagavan for months on end. During this time he would keep his body and soul together on alms that he begged.

In those early days we had no buses. I would make a bundle of provisions, such as rice and pulses, and put them on his head. Loaded in this way, we would start on our journey of forty miles to Arunachala. We would walk slowly and leisurely, telling each other stories of Bhagavan.

Mastan occasionally made towels and kaupinas and offered them to Bhagavan, who accepted them with deep regard.

Bhagavan once remarked, with great joy, ‘Mastan’s craft, though it did not give food either to him or his parents, gives me clothes’.

On full moon nights we would go round the hill in the divine company of Bhagavan. In those days there would be about ten of us – Perumal, Mastan and a few others. On those moonlit nights we would walk in rapture, forgetting the entire universe, except for the sacred mountain. I don’t think those enchanting days will ever come again!

On one of those occasions Mastan began to sing at the top of his voice. I had never heard him singing so loudly.

‘Mastan, what happened to you today?’ asked Bhagavan as soon as the pradakshina was over. ‘You never ever sing, so why did you sing like that?’

‘It was nothing,’ replied Mastan, casually. ‘Perumal instructed me that I had to sing in order to ward off your drowsiness. To raise my spirits and to equip me for the job, he made me take a drink containing ganja.’

‘So that’s what happened. Ganja intoxication was behind your wild singing. How many times have I told you that I need no external help to keep me awake? Also, I have told you before not to do anything for my sake. Don’t listen to other people who tell you differently.’

Though Bhagavan rebuked Mastan in this way, I don’t think he took the criticism very seriously. Mastan was a very innocent man, and events like this didn’t touch him.

I remember one incident that took place when Bhagavan lived at Skandashram. A golden mongoose entered the ashram premises and made straight for Bhagavan. It sat on his lap for a while. Later, it wandered around and closely inspected all the different parts of the cave. When the inspection was over, it disappeared into the bushes on the hill. While all this was happening, Mastan was the only devotee with Bhagavan.

Some time later Perumal came back to the ashram and Mastan told him about the visit of the mongoose. One can get a glimpse of Mastan’s state of mind at the time from the remarks he made.

‘I was afraid that the mongoose might harm our peacocks,’ he said, ‘so I kept myself ready in case it made an attack. I had a big stick handy. Fortunately, it moved away without making any move towards the peacocks.’

Perumal told him, ‘Mastan, you should have caught it. If you had managed to capture it, we could have brought it up here and kept it as a pet.’

Bhagavan was listening to this conversation.

Addressing Mastan, he said, ‘Whom do you think he was? Do you think you could have caught him, and do you think that this other man could have domesticated him? This was a sage of Arunachala who took on this form to come and visit me. He wanted to pay his respects to me. How many times have I told you that sages come to see me in various forms?’

Mastan never told me about this mongoose. Bhagavan himself mentioned the incident to me on one of my later visits.

Source: (‘My Reminiscences’ by Akhilandamma, Arunachala Ramana, May 1982, pp. 5-9)

Mastan continued to visit Bhagavan throughout the 1920s, although his visits were less frequent than in earlier years. He was present in Ramanasramam, along with a small number of other devotees, on a famous occasion in 1924 when Bhagavan was attacked by a gang of robbers who were under the mistaken impression that a large amount of money was kept there.

Bhagavan received a severe blow on his leg during the robbery, but in a characteristic response he told the robbers, ‘If you are not satisfied, you may strike the other leg also’.

Ramakrishna Swami, one of the devotees present, was so outraged by the assault on Bhagavan’s person, he took up an iron bar with the intention of attacking the intruders.

Bhagavan restrained him, saying, ‘Let these robbers play their role. We shall stick to ours. Let them do what they like. It is for us to bear and forbear. Let us not interfere with them.’

Mastan appeared to follow Bhagavan’s advice during this attack since there is no record of him reacting in any way to the violent invasion. In one of his rare recorded statements, Mastan is reported to have said, ‘Even if the sky falls on your head, or even if a sword is firmly driven through your chest, do not slip from your true state.’ The final clause, which can equally well be translated as ‘do not get agitated’, seems to sum up Mastan’s response to this event.

Akhilandamma rushed to Tiruvannamalai when she heard the news. This is her report of how Bhagavan reacted to the assault:

What one could not imagine had happened: Bhagavan was beaten up by thieves. The news took wing and many like me ran to the ashram in great anxiety.

Seeing me Bhagavan expressed surprise and said, ‘Oh, Desuramma, you have come as well. Kunju Swami is telling the story over there. Go and listen.’

It was as though Bhagavan had directed some children to go and listen to a story that was being told some distance away. I learned that Bhagavan had appointed Kunju Swami to relate all the incidents surrounding the robbery. From his reaction I gathered that the persistent questioning by devotees annoyed Bhagavan more than even the beatings of the thieves.

Sitting at the feet of Bhagavan and stroking the wounded leg, I expressed surprise and sorrow, saying, ‘How unjust! What injustice!’

Bhagavan contradicted me. ‘What injustice is there in this? As you feed me sweets, so they have fed me blows, and I have received them too. However many times I tell you that I am not the body, it never goes into your head.’

(‘My Reminiscences’ by Akhilandamma, Arunachala Ramana, June 1982, pp. 23-4)

Below is Akhilandamma's description of Mastan's final moments:

He was sick and bedridden for about a week. During those days he spoke of many things not of this world, as if he were actually seeing them.

He said, ‘There, Nandiswara [Nandi the bull, the vehicle of Siva] is descending. He is very affectionately licking all over my body! Look! The Siva ganas [celestial followers of Siva] are dancing here! See! They are beckoning me to come to their world. Look at those lotus ponds where celestial swans are swimming!’

We thought that this was nothing but delirium, but on the last day a very strange thing happened, and we cannot lightly dismiss it as delirium. On this day he suddenly got up from his bed and stood up, looking as if someone, face to face, had been calling him.

Then, in great excitement, he exclaimed, ‘Mother Apeetakuchamba, [the consort of Siva in the Tiruvannamalai temple] have you come yourself to escort me?’

The next moment he fell down dead. I immediately sent a message to Bhagavan.

When Bhagavan learned of Mastan’s passing away, he sent Kunju Swami to our village with full instructions on how to make a samadhi for Mastan.
There is a Tamil book [Tirumular’s Tirumandiram] that faithfully gives the details of how saints who have followed Lord Siva have to be buried. In accordance with these details Bhagavan drew up a plan of the dimensions of the samadhi and sent it along with Kunju Swami. It seemed very strange to us that a Muslim should be given a Saiva saint’s burial and stranger still that Bhagavan, who did not generally encourage ceremonial rites, actually laid down in the minutest detail the rites to be followed in the samadhi of Mastan.

Whatever the reason, just as Bhagavan stipulated, we made a tomb for Mastan in our village. It is a village whose population is predominantly Jain. These inhabitants of the village felt that having a Hindu samadhi in their midst would be very inauspicious. When they first heard of it, there was even talk of their abandoning the village completely. However, in the time that has passed since Mastan’s samadhi was constructed, the village has thrived and grown rich. Nowadays the samadhi is a visible deity to all people from the village, whatever their caste or religion. What a wonder!

(‘My Reminiscences’ by Akhilandamma, Arunachala Ramana, May 1982, pp. 5-9.)

Bhagavan only ordered this type of samadhi for three of his devotees: his mother, Lakshmi the cow, and Mastan.

Some days later Akhilandamma went to Tiruvannamalai to tell Bhagavan about Mastan’s passing away:

I went to Bhagavan and described the final days of Mastan.

Upon hearing about them Bhagavan commented, ‘Maybe the universal mother, Apeetakuchamba, personally came to take him. All his descriptions tally with the world of Siva. Mastan was an unassuming devotee. He had a wealth of hidden spiritual experiences. It is a matter for gratification that he passed away in your care and under your supervision.’

(‘My Reminiscences’ by Akhilandamma, Arunachala Ramana, May 1982, pp. 5-9.)




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Re: Ramana Maharshi Devotee Sri Mastan Swami
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2010, 09:37:42 AM »

There were very few devotees who received the glimpse of the Self
and Mastan Swami is the foremost among them.  Desur Akhilandamma's book on her reminiscences and David Godman's
the Power of the Presence, gives more details about Mastan
Swami.  Mastan Swami had gone round the Hill many times with
Bhagavan Ramana coming along with the group.

Though, Desur Mastan Swamigal never wrote about any of his
experiences with Bhagavan, an associate of his, Sambandhan
did record a few of his spiritual sayings in an eleven verse poem
that was composed after Mastan Swamigal passed away.  This poem
is called Desur Mastan Swamigal Bhakti Rasa Padigam (Eleven
Verse of Tasty Devotion on Desur Mastan Swmigal)  -
(From David Godman's book, the Power of the Presence,
Part III).

Arunachala Siva.