Author Topic: Part I - Ramana Maharshi Devotee Annamalai Swami Recollects His Experiences  (Read 1206 times)


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Annamalai Swami, a lifelong devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, was absorbed in his Master on November 9, 1995. He was 89-years-old. The Swami's remarkable story was edited by David Godman and published in 1994 by the Sri Annamalai Swami Ashram Trust.

Annamalai Swami came to the Maharshi in 1928 and, at the Sage's behest, undertook the supervision in the construction of the Goshala (cow shed), Dining Hall, Dispensary and various other projects. In the mid-1940s, Bhagavan instructed him to leave the ashram and engage in intense sadhana. He would then occasionally meet the Maharshi on his walks, but never again in the fifty years that followed did he reenter Sri Ramanasramam, preferring to live a quiet, austere life in Palakottu. His small ashram borders the western boundary of Sri Ramanasramam and he was well known to many devotees and visitors to Tiruvannamalai.

In the passage below, excerpted from Living By the Words Of Bhagavan, Annamalai Swami relates the incidents preceding his departure from Sri Ramanasramam.

* * *
I came from Tondanguruchi where I had a stall to distribute water to the needy. One day somebody showed me the book Nan Yar (Who Am I?). I saw Bhagavan's picture and was instantly captivated.

I hastened to Tiruvannamalai the very same day, which happened to be a full moon day. When I arrived at Tiruvannamalai, I chanced to meet Seshadri Swami near the Rettai Pillaiyar Koil, close to the big temple, and received his blessings. I then went to Sri Bhagavan.

MY days as an ashram worker were coming to a close, although I didn't realize it at the time. In retrospect I can remember only one small incident which indicated that Bhagavan knew that my time in the ashram was coming to an end.

I was doing some digging with a crowbar when Bhagavan came and asked me, "Did you decide to do this work yourself or did Chinnaswami ask you to do it ?"

I told him that Chinnaswami had asked me to do it. Bhagavan was not very pleased.

"So, he has given you work. So, he has given you work. Why is he giving you work like this?"

A little later Yogi Ramiah remarked to Bhagavan, "Annamalai Swami is working very hard. His body has become very weak. You should give him some rest."

Bhagavan agreed with him. "Yes, we have to give him some rest. We have to give freedom to him."

A few days later I went to Bhagavan's bathroom to help him with his morning bath. Madhava Swami and I gave him the usual oil bath and massage.

When the bath was over Madhava Swami asked a question: "Bhagavan, the people who take ganja lehiyam [an ayurvedic preparation whose principal ingredient is cannabis] experience some kind of ananda [bliss]. What is the nature of this ananda ? Is it the same ananda that the scriptures speak of?"

"Eating this ganja is a very bad habit," replied Bhagavan. Then, laughing loudly, he came over to me, hugged me and called out, "Ananda! Ananda! This is how these ganja-taking people behave!"

It was not a brief hug. Madhava Swami told me later that he held me tightly for about two minutes. After the first few seconds I completely lost awareness of my body and the world. Initially, there was a feeling of happiness and bliss, but this soon gave way to a state in which there were no feelings and no experiences. I did not lose consciousness, I just ceased to be aware of anything that was going on around me. I remained in this state for about fifteen minutes. When I recovered my usual world-consciousness I was standing alone in the bathroom. Madhava Swami and Bhagavan had long since departed for breakfast. I had not seen them open the door and leave, nor had I heard the breakfast bell.

This experience completely changed my life. As soon as I recovered normal consciousness I knew that my working life at Sri Ramanasramam had come to an end. I knew that henceforth I would be living outside the ashram and spending most of my time in meditation. There was a rule that only those who worked for the ashram could live there full-time. Those who wanted to spend their time in meditation had to live somewhere else. I thus knew that I would have to leave the ashram and fend for myself, but the thought of losing my regular meals and my room never troubled me.

I made a belated appearance in the dining room to eat my last breakfast. As soon as I had finished eating I went up onto the hill to look for Bhagavan. I found him sitting on a big rock.

"I have decided to leave the ashram," I said. "I want to go to Palakottu to live alone and meditate."

"Ah! Very good! Very good! Very good!" exclaimed Bhagavan.

The decision clearly had his approval. How could it be otherwise since it was Bhagavan himself who gave me the experience which precipitated the decision?

After getting Bhagavan's permission I packed my possessions and locked my room. I also locked all the other places that were in my charge.

I took the bunch of keys to Chinnaswami and told him, "I have decided to go and live in Palakottu. Please take these keys and keep them."

Chinnaswami was, quite naturally, very surprised. "Why are you leaving?" he asked. "You have constructed all these buildings. You have done so much here. How can you go after doing all this work? Where will you sleep? How will you eat? You will have many troubles because you have no way of supporting yourself. Don't go, stay here."

I told him that I would not change my mind. I also tried to give him the keys but he refused to accept them. I didn't want another argument with him so I just handed over the keys to Subramaniam, who was also in the office, and left.

It was an abrupt change in my life. Within a few hours of having the experience I was walking to Palakottu, knowing full well that I had left all of my old working life behind me.



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