Author Topic: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:  (Read 2546 times)

Subramanian.R

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Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« on: January 02, 2016, 10:50:38 AM »
(This is an article by Neelam Dewan in Mountain Path,  April-June 2015.)

Introducing Baba and Amma:

I would like to pay tribute to my parents Air Marshall Gian Dev Sharma and Mrs.  Kamla Sharma, while
at least one of them is alive.  Amma passed on in 2012 at the age of 91.  In February 2012, we were
here at the Asramam as usual and by June she was gone.  Baba, my father completed 93 years in
September 2014  by His grace, and is still visiting the Asramam. 

They have been regular visitors to Sri Ramanasramam since 1950, arriving just a few months after
Maharshi left His body.  Their introduction to Arunachala are stories themselves.  It was Mr. Bose
- 'Dadu' - (of Bose Compound opposite the Asramam) who made them aware in Bangalore of His
Divine Presence.  Baba was posted there at the time.  Mr. Bose was a dear friend and through him
they read a lot of Maharshi Ramana's teachings and were greatly influenced.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.     

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2016, 11:27:48 AM »
First, Amma came, in 1950, soon after Bhagavan had left His body.  Mr.Bose told Amma he wanted to
visit Tiruvannamalai and Pondicherry and that she could drive him.  Amma had just about learnt to drive
so she naturally demurred, but he prevailed upon her. They reached at last light, when the road to
Tiruvannamalai was barely a track.  Ladies were not allowed in the Asramam after nightfall, so she
spent the night at Bose Compound and came to the Asramam the next morning.  Sometime earlier she
had had a dream of a very benign old man which somehow struck vividly in her mind.  Imagine her
surprise and awe when she first beheld Maharshi's picture -  she exclaimed to Mr.Bose, 'This is the old
man  I dreamt of!'  There and then she realized the meaning of her visit.  Years later, while settled
in Dehradun, Swami Chidananda of Sivananda Ashram, Rikshikesh was giving her deeksha (initiation).
He asked her if she already had a guru.  She replied, 'Yes, Maharshi Ramana'.  'Oh, that is alright',
he proceeded to initiate her.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2016, 09:51:17 AM »
Amma, from being orphaned in her mid-teens and being a rustic from Himachal Pradesh, persevered
to educate herself right up to Indraprastha College, Delhi, and evolved into the Air Marshall's wife.
She did her last trek up to Skandasramam at the age of 82.  An avid reader, when she was no longer
capable of walking to the Asramam library across the road, she would yet go by autorickshaw.  She
never lost her zest for life and had plans to return to the Asramam till the very end.  When she was
lying so ill in the hospital in her last few days, we would sing 'Arunachala Siva', to her, and she would
smile and sway her head  and sigh happily 'Aaaah!'  At that point it was the only thing that brought
a smile to her face. She was always buying books and the Ramana cloth bags from the book shop.
So when she passed on and we conducted her last rites on the banks of Ganga in Rishikesh, our very last
act was to put her ashes into her coveted Ramana bag.  We zipped the bag and gently nudged it into the
flow of holy Ma Ganga. Arunachala, Amma and the Ganga.....


contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #3 on: January 05, 2016, 10:23:14 AM »
In 1949, while Baba was posted in Bangalore, he read and was deeply affected by Paul Brunton's
account of Maharshi Ramana in his  A Search in Secret India.  Baba was able to get in touch with
Paul Brunton through his publishers in the U.K.  They corresponded and arranged to meet in London
on Baba's forthcoming visit.  But, unfortunately, when Baba reached London, Paul Brunton was
out of town.

However, when Maharshi left His body in April 1950, Brunton wrote to Baba that he would be visiting
Bangalore and that they could go to Ramanasramam together.  So Baba drove him down and they
stayed in Mr. Bose's house.  Paul Brunton wanted to pay his last respects at Maharshi's Samadhi and
was carrying a flower offering.  So the two of them went see Chinnaswami (Maharshi's younger brother,
Swami Niranjanananda Swami), the Asramam manager.  Brunton had a falling out with the Asramam,
so Chinnaswami's cursorily took the flower offering and said he would do the needful.  But Brunton
took back the offering and walked away.  He privately told Baba that they would return to the dead of
night to the Samadhi so that he could personally pay homage to Maharshi  -- and that is exactly what they
did with their flower offering and sat next to Samadhi, in perfect silence, for a long, long time....

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2016, 11:19:54 AM »
On this first visit Baba also climbed to the peak of Arunachala.  At the peak he was not sure of the
exact summit spot, and was looking around.  He felt a tap on his shoulder and saw a hand pointing
to the spot.  He turned around to thank the person, but there was no one there.....  The last time he
climbed to the peak was at the age of 82, and the last pradakshina he did was at 83.  He has also
flown around the peak while still in service.

Baba in Service:

In 1947, after independence, the R.I.A.F became the I.A.F.  Baba had been one of the first Indians
to be directly commissioned as an officer and pilot in the R.I.A.F. After independence the I.A.F.
started the process of acquiring planes directly from U.K. so senior I.A.F. pilots used to go there to
fly them over. Baba was one of them.  In the Second World War, Baba had been a dive bomber in  the
jungles of Burma.  The R.I.A.F pilots were both British and Indian.  They were nicknamed 'the Brylcream
Boys' because of their glamorous, hard drinking life style.  It is quite incredible that Baba, in their midst,
remained a vegetarian, a strict teetotaller, and a believer with his faith intact - despite the fact that their
were rations were mainly comprised of tinned meat and units of liquor!  His photograph those days,
striding along by his aircraft with his parachute bag on his back, is hanging in the Air Force Museum
in Delhi.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2016, 10:28:48 AM »
Baba must be quite psychic.  This emerges particularly from a dramatic incident in his dive bomber days
in Burma. He had been cleared for take off on a jungle airstrip and was taxing to do so, when something
suddenly told him to veer off the airstrip and into the grassy verge.  Sure enough, the next moment a
returning aircraft landed directly in his path.  If he had not veered off, both pilots would have been instantly
killed in the crash. 

I remember another incident as a child.  Our mother, my sister Rekha and I had planned a trip to Delhi
(from Agra) and Baba kept telling us to postpone it, but Amma paid no heed.  On reaching Delhi, on the
way from the railway station to our house, we had a horrible accident in the thick of the Old Delhi traffic
when our vehicle turned turtle.  Yet we all survived with just minor injuries.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2016, 11:26:25 AM »
Another incident I remember him narrating is flying a dead body from Jodhpur.  It was the body
of a member of royal Jodhpur family.  It was night and terrible weather with thunder, lightning
and awful turbulence. Baba was piloting the Dakota plane, so he asked the navigator to go behind
to check if the body was secured.  But the navigator was so petrified that he barely took two steps out
of the cockpit and stuttered that it was OK.  Fear and faith do not go together. They landed safely in
Agra.  I don't even remember Baba being frightened or nervous.  I asked him how he had felt when he
was carrying out his bombing  raids during the war. Significantly, he said, 'I did not feel - it was a job
to be done!'

He had an impeccable reputation.  He was nicknamed Panditji meaning 'priest', not because he was
a Brahmin, but because he succeeded in remaining a vegetarian teetotaller in the midst of the hard
drinking, meat eating 'Brylcream Boys.'  He was a stickler for correctness, sometimes annoyingly so.
When he got posted to Udhampur (Jammu and Kashmir) from Srinagar, on promotion, the new staff
car came to transport him there;  with star-plate, flag and all.  Yet we all had to bundle up in our
old Vauxhall car and my sister and I were squeezed into a corner at the back, because of our oversized
spaniel sprawled out, as usual.  The empty new staff car followed us all the way, because Baba insisted
that his official vehicle ought only to be used by him after he had taken his new appointment.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2016, 12:01:35 PM »
Another time an airman was caught red handed pilfering aviation fuel.  Baba as the squadron commander
penalized him and struck him of the roster for the courier flights to the U.K.  But this fellow had contacts
and Baba was pressurized to reinstate him.  Instead Baba put in his resignation, stating that if they thought
he was incapable of commanding his squadron, so be, it. Of course his resignation was ignored.

Perhaps his cheekiest flight was when he left a minister behind in Delhi.  Baba was due to take off to Leh
(Ladakh) before the weather packed up in the mountains.  But the minister kept delaying and Baba kept
getting calls to wait for him, but 'Panditji' being 'Panditji', he finally took off - without the minister.  Of
course he got a ticking off.  Incidentally, he was amongst the first to land a plane in Leh, when the airfield
was just a dirt strip.  The locals and the Tibetans looked on in awe and prostrated to this 'bird from the heavens'.!

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2016, 10:41:29 AM »
He was in the VIP squadron for a while and flew many dignitaries including our first Prime Minister,
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, on a state visit to  Afghanistan.  In Kabul, while waiting for the official function
to start with the arrival of Pandit Nehru, who was the state guest, the king of Afghanistan was happily
chatting informally in perfect English with Baba and others.  However, as soon as the function started,
not a word of English was spoken by the king and the entire meeting was conducted through an interpreter.

Baba rose to the rank of Air Marshall and as the senior most in the air force, was nominated to take over
as the air force Chief.  The then Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram congratulated Amma and Baba on his
forthcoming promotion.  But at the last minute, a political twist resulted in the appointment of somebody
else. However, Baba and Amma were not fazed at all.  Baba has always maintained that whatever happens,
happens for the best.

He is a trained mountaineer from Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling, led by Tenzing Norgay,
who climbed Mount Everest with Edmund Hillary.  He celebrated his sixty fifth birthday with a trek to
Mount Kailash. He trained himself for the Kailash trek by regularly carrying a backpack laden with stones
up the bridle path from Dehradun to Mussoorie.  For his ninetieth birthday the family wanted landmark
celebrations in Delhi, but Baba was not interested at all and just wanted to be at the Asramam.  When
everyone in Delhi kept insisting, he finally said, 'O.K. go ahead -- but I will be in the Asramam!'  So,
instead, we all happily assembled in the Asramam!

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                   

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2016, 11:06:35 AM »
Spiritual Encounters:

Baba and Amma attracted spiritual encounters with great souls.  On a picnic in Rishikesh in the late
1950s we came across a big man in a huge overcoat.  He called us over and began chatting with Amma
and Baba, and then invited us to cross the Ganga in his boat.  He turned out to be Swami Sivananda.
He got himself photographed with us and later signed the picture.

While posted in Bangalore, in the late 1970s, Satya Sai Baba came to their house for lunch.  Amma
had a goitre on her neck.  Sai Baba looked at it and told her never to put a knife to it, thus settling the
question of whether to operate or not.  The goitre subsided.

On a posting in Dehradun in the 1960s we were regular visitors to Ma Anandamayi at her ashram.
Sometimes Baba would drive his car from one ashram to another.  Amma was part of Ma Anandamayi's
inner circle in Dehradun. So much so, that she once threw a tantrum, when she felt that poorer people
were not being given prompt darshan, verses those arriving with large hampers and gifts.  That night
she had the most excruciating headache and the first thing she did the following morning was to go and beg
Ma's forgiveness for walking out in a huff.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.   

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #10 on: January 12, 2016, 11:26:15 AM »
Sri Ramanasramam and Arunachala:

Amma and Baba used to drive down to Tiruvannamalai all the way from Delhi and Dehradun, where
they had their homes, right up until their early 80s. Similarly, they would insist on sitting on the floor
in the Asramam dining hall also in their 80s, until I convinced them that they were unnecessarily
straining themselves.  Once about four years ago, somebody asked Baba, 'Sir, when did you last go
round the Hill?'  Baba replied, 'I go everyday! -mentally and spiritually!'

They drove down the Asramam with no driver, as they both could drive. Rekha's husband and my husband
were both in the army and had many postings in the South, so Amma and Baba would stop with us
en route.  But they would cut short their holidays with us, saying they were missing the Asramam,
and again return to the Asramam.           

Even though the other holy centers were closer, the draw of Arunachala, Maharshi Ramana's teachings
and the beloved Asramam always proved strongest.  Baba has been coming to the Asramam now for
65 years, since 1950.  In the early years he and Amma made a visit almost every year.  In later years
they came more than once a year.


contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2016, 10:28:52 AM »
I asked Baba in January 2015, what he had felt on his first visit:

Baba:  A sense of great bliss.

Neelam:  What brought you back again and again?

Baba:  Maharshi's Presence is very much here.

Neelam:  Considering you had all those holy places nearer you, why did you keep coming all the way
back to Ramanasramam?

Baba:  It is a great blessing to be here.  There is always a feeling of coming home, surrounded by love,
kindness, and helpfulness down to the smallest thing.  And, in the old days, to interact with very good
old devotees.

One such devotee who is still around is Dorab Framji, whose company he enjoys very much whenever
he comes to the Asramam.  Baba was also very fond of Mr. Kothari, who used to visit him regularly
in his room. Baba has always attributed everything to the Lord, and until today, he keeps repeating,
'It is His Grace  (Unki kripa hai) that brings and keeps me here!.... That I am still walking about and
sufficiently independent!'

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         


Subramanian.R

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Re: Channels of Grace - A Tribute:
« Reply #12 on: January 14, 2016, 12:47:54 PM »
Then aged 93, he would walk to the dining hall for his meals and to Samadhi Hall for the evening
parayana, and aarti..  For three of us (Amma, Baba, and myself) our days at the Asramam were
pure perfection and complete harmony.  We would sheepishly admit to each other, 'There is no one
and nothing that we miss!' This was our home, and our time away from it was simply marking time
until we could return.

I bow my head in eternal gratitude to our parents who inculcated the Divine in us.  They enabled
us to meet spiritual luminaries like Swami Sivananda, Swami Chidananda, his successor, whose room
in Dehradun was filled with the pictures of Bhagavan and Arunachala, Ma Ananda Mayi, the Dalai Lama,
Satya Sai Baba, Mother Terasa, and many other spiritually evolved beings who frequented our home,
including Miss Merston from Ramanasramam and an American devotee called Freddy, in saffron
robes, also from Ramanasramam.

They finally anchored us, till the fourth generation, as Blessed Arunachala.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.