Author Topic: Marye Tonnaire Recollects Her Experiences With Kanakammal  (Read 1733 times)

ramana_maharshi

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Marye Tonnaire Recollects Her Experiences With Kanakammal
« on: June 10, 2010, 01:05:51 PM »


Marye Tonnaire is an ardent devotee who lives at Sri Ramanasramam, India. For two years she worked with the translators of Smt.Kanakammal's Commentary on Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Upadesa Nun Malai, a 700 page book. She moved closely with Smt.Kannakammal for a number of years.

When I read about Kanakammal in Moments Remembered and then read her own Cherished Memories, I was thrilled to discover the beauty of her relationship with Sri Bhagavan and the depth of her understanding of Sri Bhagavan's way. But still no direct contact occurred until several years later when I was asked to bring Kanakammal in the taxi with me to Chennai where I was taking a flight back to Europe. After leaving me at the airport, the taxi would then take her to her relatives' house in the city.

Sri Bhagavan brought us together a few years ago when my friend Joelle, from France, who had a very special rapport with Kanakammal, invited me to attend classes that Amma was going to give on Sri Bhagavan's original works and scriptural translations that make up the Tamil Parayana we sing at 6:30 in the evening. In the classes Kanakammal would go through the commentary that she had written in Tamil based on Muruganar's explanations to her. Kanakammal had apparently held classes for Indian people in previous years and now her class would be translated into English.

The first year, somehow, I didn't feel the motivation to attend regular classes in the morning.

When Joelle came back to Tiruvannamalai the following year, I decided that this time I would join the class. I soon regretted that I hadn't started earlier. We were a small, core group of ladies - Aparna, Dolly, Punita and Minakshi. Joelle and I were the only foreigners, though sometimes Rumi would join us and also some other visitors. Kanakammal would speak in Tamil, but we had the blessing of Aparna's outstanding English translation.

During that time I went almost daily into Kanakammal's compound, placed my chappels out on the veranda under her window and had my first glimpse of her sitting in her chair perfectly groomed, draped in a starched, light colored sari with an aura of deep contemplation surrounding her. She reminded me of my grandmother in some ways. When I would peep in through the window she would see me, smile and say, "Vango, Vango" (Come, Come). Then we would greet and I would sit on the floor and lean against the wall.

As she knew that I had undergone back surgery, she always insisted that I take and sit on the stool that she used to keep next to her chair. As I took my place I would look up at the photo of her as a young lady in her early 20s and think about how fortunate she was to in her early 20s and think about how fortunate she was to have come to Sri Bhagavan at that time.

Sometimes I would arrive late to class and once she started laughing and said, "She is Totakacharya." When I expressed my ignorance of who Totakacharya was, I immediately got the story. Totaka was a devoted disciple of Adi Shankara, but the other disciples all looked down on him as being quite dull. Once when Adi Shankara waited for Totaka to arrive before he would begin his daily discourse, the other disciples became impatient and complained about having to wait for someone who didn't have the intellectual capacity to grasp the subtle points of the scriptures. When Totaka finally arrived, he was brimming over with bliss and dazzled the disciples by uttering a few concise stanzas in Totaka metre that confirmed his complete grasp of the subject matter.

This was our class: the commentary on Sri Bhagavan's works was interwoven with many colorful stories from various scriptures and puranas, stories that brought the saints and sages to life, right into that small room. This was interwoven with her own experience of Sri Bhagavan, Muruganar and other senior devotees. At those times Bhagavan came alive and filled the room with his Divine Presence.

Through her eyes, which were always fixed on the Master, she gave us a precious glimpse of those golden days. I was thrilled when she told us once, with a twinkle in her eye, that sometimes it was stressful for her in those days, particularly when the road was filled with water during the rainy season and snakes would wind around her legs while she was walking to the ashram, or when bandicoots and monkeys would come into her house through the openings and sometimes even make off with some clothing that had been left to dry. But then all of the difficulties she was experiencing would immediately vanish as soon as she set foot into the Old Hall and plunged into Sri Bhagavan's graceful presence. Even though most of these experiences are recorded in Cherished Memories or have appeared in the Mountain Path, her speech would flood the room with the divine consciousness and bliss of Sri Bhagavan, as if he were with us then and there, showering his grace.

Aparna's talent as a translator was such a boon for those of us who are not proficient Tamil speakers.

Kanakammal used to delight at my attempts at communicating with her in Tamil. She would speak very slowly as if I were a child, and then laugh. Every time she would see me in the ashram she would take both my hands and say "Eppadi Irukinga?" (How are you?) And I would reply, "Nallarukku (fine) Eppadi Irukinga?" Then I would sit down next to her in the back of Sri Bhagavan's Samadhi Hall. When she could no longer sit on the floor because of leg pain, I would sit with her along with some other devotees in the New Hall where a chair was placed for her use. At first she felt that she should not sit on a chair in the Samadhi Hall. Only later on she accepted to sit on a chair in the Samadhi Hall.

She always pushed us inward to grasp the essence of our being, the Atman or Self, or Summa irruku (Be still and know that 'I am'). She didn't want us to complain about life's difficulties and problems. She said that like the dobi (washer man) who beats out the stains on dirty cloth, the Presence of the Guru drives away the individual self (ego) so that the Atman can be released and shine forth in all its glory. She firmly adhered to the fact that prayer to Sri Bhagavan was the ultimate solution to any of our problems and difficulties. She always insisted that the illusory individual cannot do anything on his own and only through complete surrender (saranagati) to Sri Bhagavan, our Sadguru, and with his grace can we do our sadhana.

Kanakammal was very strict that we should follow Bhagavan's direct path, and once she took me to task about my tendency to be overly attracted to rituals. She was rather strong about insisting that I had come here to do Atma Vichara and that I should not deviate from the path. But at the same time she never missed evening puja at the ashram unless she was ill, out of Tiruvanamalai, or there was a heavy downpour.

She liked to visit temples also. Once she and I were part of a group that went to Tirukoilur, and she was so enthusiastic, like a young girl, as we visited the different temples there. Another time she took me aside during one Navarathri celebration in the ashram and said, "Come to my house tomorrow morning, I want to make you a Suvasini in Sri Bhagavan's presence." She had Revati, her niece, decorate me in the traditional way and then gave me a sari, blouse and bangles. I'll never forget that blessed morning sitting in front of Sri Bhagavan's photograph in her house. I was moved to tears.

I feel privileged to have witnessed her passing and can just say that I had touched her body at that time and felt waves of bliss going through me that pushed out any trace of sadness that I could have felt. What a beautiful end she had!

It was a testimony to her utter and supreme devotion to Sri Bhagavan. She just walked into Sri Bhagavan's Samadhi on Jayanthi day before the puja started with her eyes fixed on the lingam and then dropped to the floor. Some devotees immediately carried her outside near the meditation hall where we sang "Arunachala Siva'" Where she actually left the body is not important.

Her last words to me the night before in the Samadhi Hall were "Eppadi irrukinga?" I replied, "Nalarukku."

Then I asked, "Eppadi irrukinga?" and she said, "Nalarukku. I believe so. Everything is good."


Source: http://www.arunachala.org/newsletters/2010/?pg=may-jun&t=htm#article.3


Subramanian.R

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Re: Marye Tonnaire Recollects Her Experiences With Kanakammal
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2010, 02:12:03 PM »

Dear prasanth,

An excellent piece.  Such new information/anecdotes are really
cheering up the devotees of Bhagavan in this forum. 

Arunachala Siva.

ramana_maharshi

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Re: Marye Tonnaire Recollects Her Experiences With Kanakammal
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2010, 02:20:52 PM »
Thanks for your kind words Subramanian garu.

But all credit to original author who took pains to collect all the valuable information and kind-hearted to share the information to us sir.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2010, 07:37:59 PM by prasanth_ramana_maharshi »

ramanaduli

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Re: Marye Tonnaire Recollects Her Experiences With Kanakammal
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2010, 07:28:33 PM »
Dear Prasanth ji

Thank you very much to give this information. It is like reading periyapuranam when we read Bhagavan's devotees life stories. Periyapuranam contains only 63 nayanmars. But Bhagavan's nayanmars are many.
How fortunate Kanakammal.


Ramanaduli

Subramanian.R

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Re: Marye Tonnaire Recollects Her Experiences With Kanakammal
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2010, 11:19:32 AM »

Smt. Kanakammal used to come to Bangalore for attending to some
special functions organized by Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning,
Bangalore.  After Mr. A.R. Natarajan's merger with Bhagavan, his two
daughters and his wife are running the centre.  They are also running
a monthly magazine in English called Ramana Way.  Once it appears
that the daughter of Sri A.R. Natarajan told to Kanakammal about
the financial constraints in running the centre.  Kanakammal said
to her:  You are all Kothadimais (bonded labour, generation after
generation) and Bhagavan Ramana is your Master.  Do you think
that He would leave you suffer in financial constraints for spreading
His glory?  Do not get disheartened.  Thus the daughters of Sri
A.R. Natarajan were consoled and they became immensely pleased.

Arunachala Siva.