Author Topic: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010  (Read 1574 times)

Subramanian.R

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On Sri Bhagavan's Jayanti, the first of January 2010, a senior devotee of Sri Bhagavan and an old Asramite, T.R. Kanakammal,
was absorbed in Arunachala.  Mountain Path offers a tribute to this blessed soul.

*

The Last  Day.

Sri Bhagavan has written, 'Bless me that I may die without losing hold of Thee or miserable will be my fate,  O Arunachala!'
Thus goes the ninety sixth couplet from the Aksharamana Malai.  But few have been the recipients of such blessed grace.

A divine play, perfectly scripted by the Master, was slowly unfolding in Srii Bhagavan's very presence in the precincts of His shrine,
where joyous Jayanti celebrations were on.  (I and my wife were present on that day in the Asramam Samadhi Hall). Devaraja
Mudaliar highlights the abundant grace that Sri Bhagavan, the very embodiment of compassion, showered on His devotees on
Jayanti days more than ever.

It was a doubly auspicious day.  It was the day of Ardra - when Siva rose as a column of light between Vishnu and Brahma.
Rarely do Ardra and Punarvasu fall on the same day.  It was also according to the Western calendar, New Year's Day, the first
of January 2010.

The event that happened that morning at the Samadhi Hall shrine, in an atmosphere permeated with the presence of Sri Bhagavan,
was so natural as to lend it grace and dignity,  In retrospect it seems as if Sri Bhagavan had been preparing Kanakammal for her
grand and graceful exit. Her advanced age, she was 88 years old, saw her struggle through several illnesses. But a few incidents
stand out as significant.

Once about fifteen years ago, in a momentary black out, when she fell on a burning stove and sustained a burn, she brushed
aside all inquiries saying, 'Karma burnt me; Grace saved me.' (Vinai suttadhu; AruL kattathu).  Though recurring bouts of ill health
necessitated her leaving Tiruvannamalai for Chennai, her resolve was very firm to be back as soon as she was well enough to live
on her own.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       
       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2013, 09:22:01 AM »

continues.....

The final preparation for the exit came in Chennai.  Suddenly one night she found that she could not move her limbs.  She tried
to alert her relatives but to her utter dismay, no sounds escaped from her. She had lost her power of speech.  She was admitted
in the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital.  Her mental faculties were intact.  Greatly upset by the stifling atmosphere of the I.C.U.
and agitated that her relatives were kept out, unable to provide support or succor of any kind, she made repeated vehement
gestures, to be taken out of the I.C.U, but these helped in no way to make her intelligible to others.  The nurse bestowed stern
looks on her, making signs asking her to be still.  Resigning herself to the situation she remained quiet. Suddenly there flashed in
her mind, what Sri Bhagavan had said of total surrender:  'Total surrender does not come that easily.  When there is nothing
that you can rely on, when your own kith and kin cannot help you, when your own body fails to obey your commands, then, if
one turns to the Lord with all one's heart, that is total surrender.'

'How true', she thought. She anchored her thoughts and attention on Sri Bhagavan and Bhagavan alone, She remembered
nothing else.

Kanakammal woke up the next day calm and peaceful, as if having been administered a tranquilizer. When she spoke to the
doctor who came on his rounds, Amma was surprised beyond measure to find that the power of speech had returned to her
and she could move her limbs freely, without any therapy or treatment.  Later the specialist who examined her called her
recover miraculous.   This direct and personal experience even taught her most convincingly the truth of total surrender and
prepared her for her imminent and graceful exit. 

In November 2009, she came for Deepam but extender her stay and said that she would stay on in Tiruvannamalai until
Jayanti.  Yes, indeed, she did say until Jayanti and not a day more!

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               
 

Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #2 on: June 24, 2013, 01:25:41 PM »

continues....

The Jayanti day started like any other morning for her.  With her own hands, she served breakfast and coffee to the devotees
who had come all the way from Kodaikanal to take care of her, probably as a way of saying, 'Thank you' to them.

That day the Samadhi Hall was full to capacity, Even the spaces surrounding it were occupied. Some devotees had closed their
eyes to meditate and some had positioned themselves in front of the stone balustrade near the well by the north eastern corner
of the shrine next to the side entrance near the well.  Little did they realize that a divine play would soon unfold at that very spot.

The Mahanyasa Rudra Japam having just been completed, the Vedic pundits and the vidyarthis of the Patasala were sitting in their
places at the raised shrine mantapa and the abhisheka was about to commence.  Sri Bhagavan's shrine was shining resplendently
in all its glory.     

The Parayana of he Mahanarayana Upanishad was about to commence.  The teacher of the Veda Patasala had taken his seat
and was about to give the signal to start. One of the devotees who had come from Delhi nudged another saying, 'Look at this
old lady, immaculately draped in a beautiful sari.'  Kanakammal was just then entering the hall through the entrance near the well,
using her walking stick, and escorted by her friend from Kodaikanal on one side and her attendant Ramani, on the other.  She moved
towards the stone railing to rest her hand, and tried to hold on to it, with her eyes distracted at the lingam.  Her gait was a little
unsteady and her hand, as it tried to hold onto the pillar shook violently.  Her knees buckled and she fell on folded legs with both
her arms outstretched.  Devotees nearby rushed to arrest her fall and support her.  Her walking stick and spectacles were collected
by another devotee, who also gave her a little water to drink.   Another devotee fanned her.  The eyes closed forever and her mouth
fell open. When efforts were made to straighten out her folded leg, it was observed that her extremities had become ice cold.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   
         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2013, 09:27:59 AM »


continues....

A devotee was rushed off to call Dr. Murthy, while her attendant called out 'Amma, Amma' with concern and anxiety.
Her head briefly rested on the lap of the devotee from Delhi who later exclaimed how fortunate she was to have come
all the way from Delhi just to earn this merit ! Devotees who were gong round the shrine, curious to know what had
happened, started to crowd under her.

Dr. Murthy arrived and it was decided to carry Kanakammal to the are behind the old meditation hall on the west side, to get
fresh air and to avoid any commotion.  This move was accompanied by the chanitng of Arunachala Siva.  A hefty looking foreign
devotee who had a younger daughter with him also lent a helping hand to carry her out.  Father and daughter joined the
chanting.

Kanakammal was laid on the ground with her head on the lap of another devotee.  The chanting continued. Dr. Murthy
softly informed the devotees that she had passed away.  In sheer disbelief some lady devotees looked up to him questioningly.
He quietly asked them to continue to chant. Two gusts of air escaped Kanakammal's lips, and a glint of hope lingered.  ( An oft
repeated simile in the Srimad Bhagavatam is worth recalling here. An emperor holding court in the royal hall of audience, gets
up after the durbar is over. All the ministers rise up instantly and wait.  The emperor makes his exit with grace and all the others
follow suit.  Pranan is the emperor and when he decides to make his exit, the deities presiding over the Indriyas quietly follow suit.)

Some hopeful devotees looked up again at the doctor who remained unmoved and shook his head, at which the girl attendant
started to weep.  the whole event was solemn that he usual lament appeared so much out of place.  The attendant was consoled
and asked not to weep but to chant Arunachala Siva.  It was inspiring o see the foreign devotee and his young daughter join in
the chant throughout.             
         
Curious onlookers were asked to keep away and a devotee hurried away to inform the president. It was decided to take Amma
home quickly via the Koranguthottam  (Monkey Garden which is further along the main road pas the main gate of the Asramam),
to avoid any disturbance and to allow the Jayanti celebrations to continue smoothly.  Amma' attendant was sent in advance
to open the house. The president arrived, closely followed by his wife and their son Dr. Anand. One of the first to come and pay
his respects at the house was Sri V. Ganesan, the president's brother.         

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2013, 10:20:46 AM »

continues.....

Amma's body was carried by devotees led by the president.  The traffic on the highway was stopped as they crossed to
Kanakammal's house.  The mendicant swamis lounging in front of her gate got up, shocked and bewildered to see her lifeless
body of Amma as they had seen her going to the Asramam in a car just a short while before. 

In this way Amma entered the compound, her residence for many years, where Sri Muruganar had taught her Sri Bhagavan's
works, a legacy which she herself had carried on and thereby inspired the hearts of many devotees. 

The news having spread, devotees started streaming to her house. Chanting of the Aksharamana malai began, so dear to the
heart of every devotee of Sri Bhagavan.  Her relatives in Chennai and Bangalore were informed.  Arrangements were made by
the Asramam to take care of all the funeral rites, in spite of the busy schedule of the Jayanti celebrations. 

Amma's relatives arrived in the afternoon and the prescribed rites commenced in all their solemnity.  Her younger brother
performed the rites after all the devotees had paid their final respects.  The relatives and some of the devotees acting as
pall-bearers, her last journey began. Arunachala Siva was chanted all the way.

The mortal frame was consigned to the elements after the completion of the funeral rites, witnessed by towering Arunachala
to the north and the setting crimson sun to the west.  It was the most graceful exit one could witness.  There was no struggle
no sign of pain on her face.  On the contrary, she looked calm, composed and serene.  There was even a glow on her face.

Kanakammal's own words, which she never grew tired of repeating, echoed in our hearts.  'Bhagavan never allows anyone who
has come to Him to go away empty handed.'  and 'We all belong to Him.'  Encouraged and immensely inspired by the glory of
Kanakammal's departure we bow our heads to Him in praise and prayer.  The fervent desire of every earnest devotee who
witnessed her exit from this world, is to earn the grace of Sri Bhagavan and to emulate Kanakammal by living right till the end
with a heart that remembers and holds to nothing but Him.

-- Aparna Krishanamoothy.

continued..

Arunachala Siva.           


Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2013, 10:44:07 AM »

The Loving Presence of Kanakammal.

In 1986, I came to stay at Sri Ramanasramam for a few months. I joined a group that went to Kunju Swami in the mornings
after breakfast.  J. Jayaraman was reading a Tamizh spiritual text to Kunju Swami, who was graciously explaining it.  I know
no Tamizh and understand such texts even less, but it was the Sannidhi (presence) of Kunju Swami and satsangh of others
that drew me and held me in that small room.  The room, as I recall, felt dark like a cave, but the atmosphere was of deep
silence. The only voice that of J.J. interrupted from time to time by Kunju Swami.  I noticed Kanakammal after a few days when
in reply to some question, she said something.

She was a dignified woman, in her early sixties.  Her quiet ways, her focused attention, gained my respect.  However, we never
spoke directly to each other.

A year or two later, she was visiting the U.S.A and came to Arunachala Ashrama in New York.  We had a long wonderful satsangh
with Kanakammal.  We were transported to the early forties and fifties at Sri Ramanasramam, as she spoke of Sri Bhagavan,
and her coming to live near the Asramam.  She spoke in Hindi and thus it was very easy for us to understand her.  Her personality,
her poise, and the strength of her conviction, tha there was never a life for her away from her Sadguru, inspired me more than
anything else.  Most of her words are mostly forgotten at this distance of time, but the strength of her surrender has supported me
all these years.

In the early 2000s, I was at Sri Ramanasramam for a long stay after a gap of many years.  Someone informed me that Kanakammal
was in the New Hall.  She was seated on a chair, in a white sari, with a red border, facing the large portrait of Sri Bhagavan.  I
approached her, did my pranam, and said my name.  She raised her glance to focus on my face, and her simple gesture of
recognition melted my heart.  I sat by her side for the next few days.  There was no need for a conversation.  She was in the
presence of her ever present Sadguru.  There was an unmoving quietness around her.  After an hour, she would get up and leave.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       
           

Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2013, 10:17:25 AM »
continues.....

After a few days, I had the opportunity to visit her.  That evening, Ramanendu Chatterjee and I, along with Terry Sayre, a devotee
from California, went to see her.  She was surprised when we entered her house, around 4.00 pm., since that was her time to come
to see Sri Bhagavan. She clearly recalled  having met me in New York and said in Hindi:

'Poocho, jo poochchanaa hai?  (Ask whatever you want to ask). So I said, 'Tell me how and when you spoke to Sri Bhagavan.'
It is difficult for me to ask questions, and I wanted to overcome this hurdle.

She laughed and spoke to all there of us for a long time.  I started to translate for Terry, and then he said graciously, 'I don't
need to know, basking in her presence is enough for me.'  The tears of devotion in his eyes were his silent offerings at the feet
of Kanakammal, and I was convinced that they reached Sri Bhagavan. 

She spoke to us for almost an hour.  This is what I recall:

There were a few close devotees who dominated the conversations around Sri Bhagavan.  They talked about the problems
of their domestic lives.  As a young person, I used to think, 'What is the use of talking in front of the Master of Silence?'

'I had seen others ask for permission before going on pradakshina.  Therefore, one day, I did the same. I approached the sofa
and stood there. Sri Bhagavan looked up and with His eyes  and a slight movement of His head, asked, 'What?' My mouth opened
but no sound came.  I was transfixed.  He said, 'You want to go on pradakshina. Is that it?' Still there was no response from me.
He then looked at the older lady who was with me, and turning towards me asked, 'Is she going with you?' Still no sound came
out of me.  The lady confirmed to Sri Bhagavan that she would take me with her.  That was the end of my one and only private
audience with Sri Bhagavan.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Re: Smt. T. R. Kanakammal - A Tribute - Mountain Path April - June 2010
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2013, 01:53:08 PM »

continues....

"Another occasion was the Jayanti celebrations.  There was only a thatched hut in which Sri Bhagavan stayed (adjacent to
the Old Hall). Sri Bhagavan was sitting on a chair outside the hut by the west wall.  There was a queue of people starting
from the well, going outside the hut towards the south, to the west facing Sri Bhagavan, and then moving on.  In other words,
going around the hut in a clockwise manner, so that everyone could have a brief audience with Sri Bhagavan on Jayanti day.

"I was very excited about this, my first formal occasion to be in front of Him, and wanted to say something to Him.  I joined the
line.  But when I actually came in front of Him, I was tongue-tied.  Sri Bhagavan was glowing brighter in the golden sun.  There
are no words to describe what I witnessed.  The karuna (compassion) in His eyes, the golden lustre of His physical being, 
Once again, speech was lost, the desire to speak was gone, and so I moved silently.

"There is no regret that I never spoke to Him."

Kanakammal used Hindi to speak to me, but it was her hands, her eyes, and her heart that spoke to all three of us more
forcefully.  Terry who does not understand any Hindi, felt the power of her presence, and Ramanendu and I were overwhelmed.

On the last day of my stay, I went in the morning to say my goodbyes.   She opened the door, and when she saw me with a tray
of fruits in my hand, she asked me to place it in front of Sri Bhagavan's photo, that stood on a raised shrine in the room.  She sat
on an easy chair in the same room, and watched me offer the fruits to Sri Bhagavan's picture.  She then asked me to come closer
to her chair.  She gave  me back some fruits.  I did my pranam to her.  My head  was in her lap.  She put her hands on my head
in a gesture of blessing, kept them there for sometime, and filled me with her 'unspoken' blessings. I left her room overwhelmed
by that final gesture.

This is the closest I will ever come to basking in the physical presence of our Saduguru, Sri Bhagavan.

-Geeta Bhatt.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.