Author Topic: Recollections of Bhagavan - V.S.V. Mani - Mountain Path, April - June 2010:  (Read 3076 times)

Subramanian.R

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I originally came from Tiruvannamalai.  I worked in a bank and eventually retired as the Chairman of a bank.  Though I started
visiting the Asramam in 1926, at the age of twelve years, it was only from 1939 onwards, that I was a regular visitor to Sri
Ramanasramam.  So I was fortunate in being associated with Sri Bhagavan for over 70 years. 

I saw a photo of Sri Bhagavan in a friend's house and afterwards I was very eager to see Sri Bhagavan.  One day, I reached
Tiruvannamalai by train in the early morning, walked to the Asramam and arrived at 6.30 am.  I prostrated before Sri Bhagavan.
He asked me from where I had come.  I told him that I was studying in Sethupathi High School at Madurai and came for Sri
Bhagavan's darsan.  I got into the habit that, whenever I went out, permission would first be taken of Sri Bhagavan before
leaving the Asramam. I wanted to see the place where the Kartigai Deepam was lit.  Sri Bhagavan told me to on the straight route
and not to follow any shorter cuts.  After passing Skandasramam, we took an apparently shorter route.  There we met monkeys and
cobras on the way.  Frightened by this, we returned to the straight path, as instructed by Sri Bhagavan.  Then we understood the
value of His instructions as we would encounter obstructions if we did not follow Sri Bhagavan's advice.

I was married to Lalita who was born and brought up in the Asramam.  My marriage was fixed in Sri Bhagavan's Presence. My
wife had a close acquaintance with Him even from her childhood.  She realized that He was a Sannyasi like others but also
her relative so to speak.             

Our first child was unable to walk until the age of two.  When we brought the child to the Asramam.  Sri Bhagavan stroked the
child's legs and on the third day she walked and on the fourth day, she starting running !  The child came and told Sri Bhagavan
that she spoke well.  Sri Bhagavan lovingly gave her some sugar candy and a blessing, in return.  In the Old Meditation Hall,
Sri Bhagavan would feed the monkeys and squirrels with peanuts.  Even though there were people crowding the dhyana hall,
animals would fearlessly come into the room.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Somebody had presented a strong bull in the gosala.  It was strong and violent.  It would break its chains, rampage and
charge those who were near it.  Hearing this,  Sri Bhagavan rose from His seat, went to the bull and asked him to calm down.
Due to Sri Bhagavan's sweet pleadings the bull stopped, strolled away and did not attack anyone after that.  Sri Bhagavan's
very look made the bull tranquil.

I am always thinking of Sri Bhagavan who always keeps me well. 

For five generations my family was in close contact with Sri Bhagavan.  Being a doctor's daughter, my wife Lalitha set right
the dispensary, which had been constructed in the Asramam.  My wife had close contact with Sri Bhagavan even in dining hall,
Sri Bhagavan would ask her what she would like to eat.  When we invited Sri Bhagavan for the grahapravesam of our house
in Madurai, Sri Bhagavan told my wife that He would come there if she brought Annamalai there!  Sri Bhagavan said, 'Annamalai
is static and so also I am static and I will not move away.'

When I had to leave the Asramam and return to work, I requested permission to depart but Sri Bhagavan told us to remain
for two more days.  It was unusual for Sri Bhagavan to influence a person's travel plans.  It turned out that the next day there
was a cyclone and heavy rain, all roads were obstructed, trains were disrupted and nobody could travel.   There was a breach
in the railway track beyond Villupuram.  Only then did we understand why Sri Bhagavan did not permit us to leave the Asramam.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   
       

Subramanian.R

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continues......

Since her parents had regularly performed Lalita Sri Chakra Puja, my wife Lalita was given that name by Sri Bhagavan, when she
was born.   Sri Bhagavan asked her to visit Tiruchuzhi and described to her the entire lay out of the area where He had played
as a child.  Whenever Sri Bhagavan went for giri pradakshihna, He would take Lalita with him.  They chanted Aksharamanamalai
and He explained the details of every place and shrine that they passed.  When Sri  Bhagavan worked in the kitchen, He would
use a grinder and showed her how to make a smooth paste of batter for the preparation of dosas and iddlies. 

Generally, when Sri Bhagavan went on giri pradakshina, most of the Asramam inmates went along with Him, carrying food with
them. 

During the days when Sri Bhagavan was at Skandasramam, His nephew T.N. Venkataraman was a young boy with long locks
of hair.  In those days, both boys and girls had their hair plaited.  Once a snake came down a pillar and Sri Bhagavan asked it
to go away without hurting anybody.  Sri Bhagavan had a sense of humor and he made a joke comparing the snake with the
plait of young Venkatarman's hair.

At the entrance to Skandasramam, there is still the raised platform where Sri Bhagavan would sit.  There was only one train
to Tiruvannamalai which arrived at 6.00 am.  There were no bus services.  As the number of persons coming to Skandasramam
came into view, Sri Bhagavan would count the number of people and arrange for their food, which would either be prepared
or obtained from the town as bhiksha.

My father-in-law's mother, Lakshmi Ammal, lived at Tiruchuzhi and she studied, played and stayed with Sri Bhagavan during
her younger days.  They came to know about His whereabouts when Sri Bhagavan was living in Virupaksha Cave.  She immediately
came to see Sri Bhagavan accompanied by a friend.  But Sri Bhagavan did not speak to her as He was in silence. She shed
tears on seeing Sri Bhagavan and He silently consoled her.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

Subramanian.R

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continues....

In the early days there was only a thatched shed in the Asramam.  My grandmother Lakshmi Ammal and my mother stayed
in the town, in the house of Pichu Iyer, my aunt's husband.  They would come to the Asramam at 5.00 am and helped with all
kinds of service during the day.  When the kitchen was constructed, the highways engineer K.K. Nambiar supervised the work.

While grinding wet flour in the grinding stone, Sri Bhagavan instructed my mother in law how to press the flour properly, while
the actual rolling of stone was done by Him.  This is how Sri Bhagavan gave instructions in a very simple way. 

There was only one thatched house for men in the Asramam.  I remember Omandur Ramaswami Reddiar, later the Chief
Minister of Madras Presidency, Gopal Rao, who was the chairman of the Bank of Baroda and one Sastri, who was the regional
manager of Central Bank of India, staying there with us.  There were no regular cooks at that time.  We used to serve the food
and clean the vessels. As there were no servants  everyone had to clean their respective rooms.

My job in the Asramam was to take instructions from the visiting doctors who stayed and served in the Asramam.  They attended
the patients who came for free.  Dr. Srinivasa Rao later started the free dispensary.  These doctors would bring with them for
free distribution, the medicines required in the subsequent months.  At that time there was no building for the hospital.  The
medicines were stacked in the small cupboards under the staircase near the dhyana hall.  The compounders would take the
doctor's prescriptions and dispense the medicines from this place.

At that time, Sama Iyer (Sama Thatha) did the cooking.  He was very fond of Lalita, who would clean the vessels and help him.
Since she was dark in complexion, she would say that as she was black, she was cleaning the blackish vessels.  So Sama Thatha
would fondly call her Karuppaayee (the black one).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Muruganar also affectionately called her 'Karuppaayee'.  When Sri Bhagavan wrote a poem in Tamizh and showed it to Muruganar,
who then pointed out some mistakes in it and corrected them, Sri Bhagavan jokingly said that in the olden days Nakkeeran had
pointed out mistakes in Isvarana's (Siva's) poems. (Tiruvilaiyaadal Puranam).  Similarly, Muruganar was the Kaliuyuga Nakkeeran
correcting his poems.  Such was Muruganar's intimacy with Sri Bhagavan!

The Office and the Book Depot stood in what is today Sri Bhagavan's Samadhi Hall. I would regularly help with the books in the
stall.  Sarvadhikari Chinnasamigal commanded everyone in  their jobs.  He would make me check the cash and keep accounts,
as well as make flower garlands.

Sri Bhagavan was fond of ground nuts (peanuts).  I used to peel off the shell and give the nuts to Sri Bhagavan.  Lakshmiammal
used to collect the shelled ground nuts and keep them safe so that Sri Bhagavan could be offered at a later date.

Sri Bhagavan would move easily with everybody.  When He sat in the Hall, everyone silently observed Him. It was a common
phenomenon that whatever questions one wanted to ask Sri Bhagavan, would get answered before questioning them.     
When we looked at Sri Bhagavan's face, we did not need to ask any questions. Both in the mornings and evenings, He would
inquire with everyone about their welfare.

Sri Bhagavan talked to us  on many occasions and while I was studying, He would enquire about the school and the place I was
studying.  I had no capacity to understand the correct meaning of tattvas and such terms of philosophy, but Sri Bhagavan gave
me reference books to clarify their meaning and helped me understand them.  He was fluent in all regional languages.

I had no courage to ask questions of Sri Bhagavan as I was not mature or conversant with spiritual matters.  But because my
wife and my father in law were very close to Him, they would speak very freely with Him.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.
   

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni was a famous scholar and Jnani.  He was a great scholar (pulavar) in the Hyderabad Nizam's
Durbar.  The Nizam and Kavyakanta played chess together for three days, and when the latter won the game, the Nizam
presented him with a plate of gold coins.  But Kavyakanta took only six coins and left Hyderabad for Tiruvannamalai.

Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni had a long white beard and looked like Tagore.  He would talk to Sri Bhagavan in Tamizh and
Telugu about various aspects of Vedanta, which we could not understand.  During these conversations, Sri Bhagavan would
refer to various Vedantic scriptures. It is a wonder how and when Sri Bhagavan studied these texts.

Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni inquired of Sri Bhagavan how He was able to survive on the Hill when He was observing mouna
and how He got His food.  Sri Bhagavan told him that there were many shrubs on Arunachala and if He ate small fruits like
sundaikai, He did not feel hunger at all.   There was one Mouna Swami from KuRRalam who came to Sri Bhagavan and wanted
to learn about rasvada.  Sri Bhagavan told him that being a sannyasi, he should not aspire for rasavada and siddhis, but
instead aspire o seek the Truth.  After returning to KuRRalam, my father offered him a house where he set up an Ashram for
the swami which was named Mouna Swami Math.

There was no water when the construction of Skandasramam was contemplated.  But Sri Bhagavan instructed us to dig for
water at a spot and water was soon found to flow copiously.  Now there is a perennial water supply there.  At night, during
Sri Bhagavan's time, wild animals would come to drink water.  Sri Bhagavan said that the Asramites should not drive them
away because it was their place.

At Sri Ramanasramam, whenever work was required, Sri Bhagavan would join in and all of us, including ladies and children
would assist Him by carrying stones, sand, cement etc., Thus we had the opportunity of close proximity to Sri Bhagavan.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     
               

Subramanian.R

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continues....

One of Sri Bhagavan's classmates, Ranganatha Iyer, visited Sri Bhagavan.  Sri Bhagavan recollected the play days with him
and how they climbed the mango trees to pluck fruits and swam in the Tiruchuzhi tank.  At that time water was overflowing
the bund gate, Ranganatha was caught in rushing water near the wooden plank but Sri Bhagavan rescued him.  Ranga Iyer
said that He had made him reach the shore, with implied meaning that Ranga had crossed the samsara sagara.  He also said
that he was in good hands, meaning that Sri Bhagavan enabled him to cross the samsara hurdles.   

My mother in law would also assist with all the Asramam work in the kitchen, like cleaning, sweeping, etc., But being young
and timid she had no occasion to talk to Sri Bhagavan.  She held Sri Bhagavan in awe as God Himself and was very devoted
to Him.

MY sons were also regular visitors to the Asramam from their first birthdays.  Sri Bhagavan fed them their first solid food in
their mouths.  They were fortunate to receive prasad from Sri Bhagavan's hands.  All my sons and daughter, by His Grace,
are well settled in good positions.  The fiftieth anniversary of my marriage to Lalita was held here.

There was no sense of difference in the Asramam and all were treated equally.  There was neither guru nor sishya.  Sri
Bhagavan was not a sannyasi but an Atma jnani.  He was an avatar of Lord Dakshinamurti.  In the Hall He sat facing south
and wherever else He sat, faced south as well.  Even His sofa where He gave darsan faced south.  I have not seen Him sitting
facing east.  So, I feel that it is true that Sri Bhagavan is the avatar of Sri Dakshinamurti.  There has been a Guru for everyone,
including Adi Sankara.  But Sri Bhagavan had no guru - nobody gave Him sannyasa diksha. His Guru was only Isvara, God.

continued.

Arunachala Siva.       
       

Subramanian.R

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continues....

Every word uttered by Him is upadesa (instruction).  Only after serving food to everyone did He eat His food.  He would never leave
any food on His leaf plate. He never allowed anybody o take away used banana leaf except Sama Iyer.

He would always sit with His legs stretched out.  He explained to Lalita that His legs were very weak because He had remained
sitting for long periods during His earlier days.  Whenever His legs gave Him pain, He Himself applied oil and massaged His legs.
He did not ask the help of anyone else to massage His legs.  Even though He did not say anything, it was clear from His behavior
that He did not like the traditional guru-sishya notion of service to the guru.

Whatever needed for the development of the Asramam, it would, by Sri Bhagavan's Grace, appear.  When Chinnaswami bemoaned
the scarcity of provisions, Sri Bhagavan would reply that he  need not worry and that everything would be alright. Very often
somebody would soon after bring in a cart from the railway station, carrying the required provisions whether bags of rice or say,
plantain leaves, or dhal.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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continues....

At the time of the planning of the Mother's temple, I was there during the discussions.  It was proposed to build  the temple,
in a simple style and Sri Bhagavan approved the plans.  During its construction, Sri Bhagavan inspected the work daily and
discussed with the Sthapathi, every stage of construction that is, should be done strictly according to Agama Sastras.  Sri
Bhagavan never discussed the financial aspects of the construction of the temple.  When the idol was to be placed, facing
east, it was Sri Bhagavan who marked the exact direction with His walking stick.

The exact direction could not be easily ascertained, but Bhagavan correctly measured the angle and geometrical location.
This was due to His Jnana Drishti, for He had never studied any Sastras. 

Everyday Mounaswami would bring the mail.  Sri Bhagavan would peruse carefully and tell him that replies to be sent
immediately.  When a radio was donated to the Asramam it was set up in the Old Hall for Sri Bhagavan to listen to the news.

When I heard that Sri Bhagavan was seriously ill in early 1950s, my wife and I came immediately to the Asramam.  Sri Bhagavan
was moved to the new room opposite Mother's Temple. His left arm was heavily bandaged.  My father in law, who was a
doctor, offered to treat Him.  But Sri Bhagavan refused to take any medical treatment, and only on strong persuasion did He
agree.  When my wife asked Him if e had any pain, Sri Bhagavan replied, 'The pain is only for the body and not for me.  You
should know this, as you have been coming for many years -- that the pain is not for me.  That is the teaching: that the body
and Self are different. ' 

This was two days before His Maha Nirvana.  We stayed here all those days and on the Mahanirvana day also.

continued....


Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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continues.....

Much earlier, on learning about the growth above the left elbow, I came immediately to the Asramam, to be with Sri Bhagavan.
On seeing Sri Bhagavan's arm covered in a bandage, I cried aloud in grief.  Sri Bhagavan asked me, 'Why are you crying?'
I said, 'Seeing you suffer severe pain causes me much grief. '  He replied that the pain was only to the body and not for Him.
He also said that even though I had been coming to see Him for a long time, I did not seem to understand that the body and
the mind are separate. He gave different examples to explain this. 

He was happy and we could not see from His face that He was suffering.  He spoke to my wife.  He talked as usual.  Even
though almost nobody was allowed to go near Him, my wife was allowed to do so.  There seemed to be no change in Him and,
right until His nirvana day, He remained cheerful, so that many devotees did not realize that He would shed His mortal coil soon.

Just ten minutes before His end, He was sitting with His eyes closed and nobody was allowed to go near Him. My father in law
was not there then.  Everyone was alert knowing that something would happen.  Only five minutes after He left the body, did
we understand that He was no more.  There was no sign of shivering or heavy breathing.  The end was very natural.  We had
never thought the end would come on that particular day.  Immediately after His passing, there was silence for a minute but
afterwards cries of grief arose.  After two minutes people outside the Asramam saw a bright light. like a star, going towards
the Hill.  It lasted for two or three minutes. It was like a flame of a burning torch. It went to the top of the Hill and disappeared
in the sky.  It was reddish yellow in color.

The following day Sri Bhagavan's Samadhi ceremony was completed by the evening.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.