Letters from Sri Ramanasramam
By Suri Nagamma
Introduction (To Volume I)
Nagamma had no school education worth mention and does not know any language other than her mother tongue, Telugu. During her early years, owing to domestic calamities and consequent enforced solitude, she studied books of ancient lore and thereby acquired some literary knowledge which resulted in her writing a few books in prose and poetry. When, however, she became an Ashramite, she renounced everything including her literary activities. Sitting at the feet of the Master, day in and day out, she felt an irresistible urge to record the discussions devotees were having with Bhagavan and, as she began recording them, found that the work was a sort of sadhana for herself and so began writing them in the shape of letters in Telugu to her brother in Madras. 273 letters were thus written.
I read these letters over and over again on different occasions but never did I realise the depth of wisdom and knowledge contained in the cryptic sayings of Bhagavan until I had to sit up and translate them. I have also found throughout the letters the great trials and tribulations Nagamma had undergone in trying to live up to the high ideals of the Asramam. The letters are a veritable mine of information presented in a simple and easily understandable manner and are well worth a careful study not only by the spiritual aspirant but also by the lay reader.
- D. S. Sastri
21st November 1945
(1) The Son is Beholden to the Father
Brother, you have asked me to write to you from time to time whatever striking happens in Sri Bhagavan's presence and what Sri Bhagavan says on such occasions. But am I capable of doing so? Anyway I will make an attempt and beginning this very day. The attempt will succeed only if Bhagavan's Grace is on it.
The day before yesterday being full moon, the usual Deepotsava (festival of lights) was celebrated on a grand scale. This morning Sri Arunachaleswarar started for giri pradakshina (going round the hill) with the usual retinue and devotees and accompaniment of music. By the time the procession reached the Asramam Gate, Sri Niranjanananda Swami (the Sarvadhikari) came out with Asramam devotees, offered coconuts and camphor to Sri Arunachaleswarar, and paid homage when the procession was stopped and the priests performed Arati (waving of the lights) to the God. Just then Sri Bhagavan happened to be going towards the Goshala (cowshed) and seeing the grandeur he sat down on the pial near the tap by the side of the book depot. The Arati plate offered to Arunachaleswarar was brought to Bhagavan by Asramam devotees and Sri Bhagavan took a little Vibhuti (holy ashes) and applied it to his forehead, saying in an undertone "Appakku Pillai Adakkam'' (The son is beholden to the father). His voice seemed choked with emotion as he spoke. The expression on his face proved the ancient saying "bhakti poornathaya Jnanam'' (the culmination of Devotion is Knowledge). Sri Bhagavan is Lord Shiva's son. Sri Ganapati Muni's saying, that he is Skanda incarnate, was confirmed. It struck us that Bhagavan was teaching us that since all creatures are the children of Ishwara, even a Jnani should be beholden to Ishwara.
We can never tell how pregnant with meaning are the words of Mahatmas. You ask me to write somehow, but how can I convey the exquisite beauty of his utterances? How can I describe adequately? I wrote in a recent poem that every word that falls from his lips is scripture. Why talk of his words alone? If one has the ability to understand, his very gaze and gait, his action and inaction, inhaling and exhaling - everything about him is full of meaning. Have I the capacity to understand and interpret all this? With full faith in Sri Bhagavan's grace, I shall write to you whatever occurs to me, serving Sri Bhagavan with the devotion of the squirrel to Sri Rama.
29th December 1945
(15) Echamma's Demise
On the night of Thursday the 27th at 2-45 Echamma, who was like a mother to Bhagavan, left her body and attained union with the Almighty at Bhagavan's lotus feet. I feel rather gratified than sorrowful at this news. When I moved from her house to a residence near to the Asramam, she would often say, "I loved you as my child. I thought you would see me out of this world, but you have gone away to a distance. Now you will come to me only after I am dead, to see the body off to the cremation ground, won't you?" When she said this, tears used to well up in her eyes. But it happened just as she had said. I only heard the news of her death, not of her sickness. There is a saying, "The child is firm as a rock, the mother fragile as shellac." I am only sorry it came too true in this case.
You remember on the 25th you and your wife presented her with some clothes and she was busy cooking for guests in the house. That same evening, she was unable to get up and so asked for water and she was given some. After drinking it, she lay quietly and so, all the guests left. I am giving you the details as related by her niece who attended on her. After that drink of water she could not talk or eat, but remained bed-ridden. Next day this news was conveyed to Bhagavan. On the 27th her condition became serious. Telegrams were sent to her relatives. Even though she was almost unconscious she would open her eyes slightly, when anyone called her. At about four in the afternoon one lady wanted to test how far she, was really conscious. So she said, "Food does not appear to have been sent to Bhagavan today." Immediately she heard the word "food'' she opened her eyes full and, with an exclamation, cast a questioning look. So as not to disturb her peace of mind, her niece said, "We have sent it," and she nodded her head in approval. That is real vrita deeksha (strict observance of a vow). What can one say of the great mother who would not forget her kainkarya (service) to Bhagavan, even though she was in the throes of death!
That is all. At 8 o'clock that evening incoherent sounds were coming out of her mouth, her eyes were glazed and she was clearly in the pangs of death. Her nephew came to Bhagavan and brought the news. The Asramam doctor went there, examined her and declared that there was no hope; and then they performed her jeevaprayaschitham (shriving). Anyway, after the news was conveyed to Bhagavan, she had not much suffering, the breathing became easier and feebler and she passed away at 2-45 a.m. I came to know of her illness on Thursday evening and thought I could look her up the next morning but when I came to the Asramam before starting, I heard this sad news. Bhagavan said to me, "Oh, is she dead? I have been waiting to see when she would get away from all these worldly worries. So she has gone away from all these worries. All right, go there and come back."
I went there along with some devotees. I was overpowered with grief when I saw that the body with the face still undimmed. She was undoubtedly a powerful personality and, when I was here alone in my early days, she was my sole support. Though much against her will, I changed my residence, she used to bring me food, along with that of Bhagavan whenever I was unwell. In accordance with her previous instructions, I bathed her body in Ganges water, smeared it with Vibhuti (holy ashes) and put on rudraksha beads, and then saw her off on her final journey. All her relatives decided that she should be cremated, not buried.
When I prostrated before Bhagavan at 2-30 in the afternoon, he asked, "How did she die? What did they do?" I replied, "They decided on cremation. Her relatives said that she wished her ashes to be buried in her village and a samadhi erected over them with a tulsi plant for worship." Bhagavan said, "Yes, yes, that is right. The same was done with Ganapati Sastri and others." After I sat down, Bhagavan said in a consoling manner, "I told her quite a number of times not to worry about this food but to stop it. But no! She was adamant and refused to take food until she had served Swami. Even today food was sent to me on her account." I said, "No more now." "That Mudaliar old lady is still there'' said Bhagavan. When he said this I was overcome with grief and said, "Whenever Echamma gave me something to eat, she used to get angry if I did not eat it there and then." By this time my eyes were full of tears, and saying, "Yes, yes," Bhagavan changed the subject. The earthly life of a devotee who for thirty eight years kept this vow as her talisman and worshiped God has now come to an end. Another interesting thing: On the evening of the 27th, after Vedaparayana and my usual pradakshina (round the hall), when I went in to bow before Bhagavan, I saw him seated motionless in padmasana, deeply immersed in dhyana and with his hands hanging loose at his side. His eyes were glowing with radiance as if they were two celestial lights and I felt that the spiritual lusture of the universe had come down in a concentrated form in the shape of Bhagavan. I wanted to see it closer and longer but I could not stand the powerful glare and so I merely bowed and came home thinking all the while that there must be some deep significance for that deep meditative state of Bhagavan.
In the night after meals and the subsequent short discourse with Bhagavan at his bedside, Krishna Bhikshu came to my place with a friend. When I enquired of Asramam news, he said that Bhagavan had been deeply self-absorbed with a radiant and distant look the whole evening, and that there must be something great and unusual about it. We wondered what it could be. Subsequently when we heard the details of Echamma's demise, we found that from 5 p.m. onwards yesterday she was in the throes of death and that at 9 p.m. when the news was communicated to Bhagavan, all her agony ceased and she had a peaceful end of her life. Then we all thought that it was to release this great devotee from her mortal state that Bhagavan had assumed that superb radiant form the previous evening.
14th September 1947
(8) Mother's Gift
Last month, Niranjananandaswami sent a bull born and bred in the Asramam to the Meenakshi Temple, Madurai, as a present. People there named it Basava, decorated it nicely and took a photo of it along with Sri Sambasiva Iyer who had accompanied it. Sambasiva Iyer returned with a copy of the photo besides an old fashioned silk-fringed shawl, some vibhuti, kumkum and prasad given to him by the Temple authorities.
Due to the great crowd of visitors since August 15th, Bhagavan had been spending the days out in the Jubilee Hall. Sambasiva Iyer came into Bhagavan's presence with the shawl, vibhuti, etc. on a large plate. The brahmins who had accompanied him recited a mantra while all of us prostrated before Bhagavan, then rose. Looking at me, Bhagavan said, "Our bull has been sent to the Meenakshi Temple, did you know?" "Yes, I knew," I said. "On the day it was going, I saw it decorated with turmeric, kumkum etc, and came to know of the purpose when I asked the cattle-keeper."
Holding the plate reverentially and smearing the vibhuti and kumkum on his forehead, Bhagavan said, "See, this is Meenakshi's gift." And his voice quivered as he said it. Sambasiva Iyer spread the shawl over Bhagavan's feet, and when Bhagavan, deeply moved, removed it with evident feeling of reverence, the attendants took it and spread it over the back of the sofa. Adjusting the shawl properly with his hands, Bhagavan, looking towards us, said, "Mother Meenakshi has sent this. It is the Mother's gift." And, choked with emotion, he was unable to say more and became silent. His eyes were full of tears of joy and his body beccame motionless. Seeing this, it seemed to me that Nature herself had become silent. When, as a boy, Bhagavan was in Tiruchuli and wept, sitting behind the image of Sahayamba; he alone knows how the Mother consoled him and what hopes she gave him.
Three years ago, the Ashram doctor said that hand-pounded rice would be good for Bhagavan's health. Thereupon the Asramites approached Bhagavan with a request to take such rice, which would be specially cooked for him. When Bhagavan asked them whether the same rice would be served to all, they said that it would not be possible, as the supply of such rice was limited. Bhagavan therefore would not agree to having it however much they tried to persuade him. At last they said that they would use the hand-pounded rice for the daily offerings to the deity in the temple, for which rice is usually cooked separately and they requested Bhagavan to partake of that rice. "If that is so, it is all right. I will take it because it is Mother's prasadam," said Bhagavan. And from that day onwards, they have been cooking hand-pounded rice separately and, after offering it to the goddess in the temple, have been serving it to Bhagavan, giving what was left over to all others in his company.
Last summer, Ramaswami Iyer's son got married and for the occasion there was a feast here. That day, Iyer noticed that there was white rice on the leaves of all, whereas the rice on Bhagavan's leaf was reddish, and he enquired the reason. Bhagavan smiling, said, "This is Mother's prasadam. What is wrong with it? It is cooked specially as an offering to Mother." He then related the above incident. He once again said, "This is Mother's gift; I have accepted it only because of that."
Is this not a great lesson to those who say that they have given up visiting temples and such things?
30th November, 1947
(24) Poor Man's Mite
I have already written to you that on the night of the festival of the Holy Beacon, (i.e. the Deepam Festival) when the Beacon at the top of the hill was lighted, we took the permission of Bhagavan and went round the hill. Hitherto, the usual practice had been to go round the hill before the festival, not after. But this time, however we started at night, after the evening meal. There were about a hundred of us. With Bhagavan in our hearts and with the Beacon Light on the top of the hill before our eyes, and with the full moon brightly shining, we started out on foot. Devotees who had had the privilege of accompanying Bhagavan on his walks round the hill in his earlier days, began to tell us about their experiences; "Bhagavan used to sit here''; "here he used to cook''; "this happened here'" "Bhagavan told us about this, there''. While they were relating such incidents, we did not feel the fatigue of walking, for we were absorbed in the tales. But for the fact that we wanted to get back for the Vedaparayana at 5 a.m., we might only have returned at day-break. As it was, we returned at 3 a.m.
I will now tell you some of the things the devotees told us that night:
As we were approaching the Unnamalai tank, a devotee said, "When Bhagavan went round the hill, he used to sit here for some time so that those who were lagging behind might catch up with the party. Let us also sit here and wait for a while''. We accordingly all sat there for some time.
"How long ago was it that Bhagavan gave up going round the hill?" I asked.
"Till 1926 Bhagavan used to do it. That was an exhilarating experience," said Kunjuswami, one of the old devotees.
"Why not tell us some of the incidents of those days?" we said. Kunjuswami agreed and began to tell us as follows:
"One day, we all felt like going round the hill with Bhagavan. When we told him, he readily consented and we started that afternoon immediately after food. In was usual for Bhagavan to walk slowly while going round the hill, so Venamma hearing that he had gone and confident that she could catch up with the party in no time, started out with a big basket of provisions.
"We were passing Sona Thirtham when Bhagavan noticed Venamma at a distance, approaching, and he said, 'There, you see, Venamma is coming; someone must have told her and sent her with a basket of food. However much I protest, people will not give up these things. There she is, with a heavy load on her head. All right; this is going to be a punishment for her.'
"So saying, he began to walk fast. Could she overtake him if he walked fast? Let us see. She continued to hurry, panting and fretting all the time, but did not stop walking. Bhagavan continued to walk in this way until we passed the Gautamasram, when we looked back. He could see that she, too, was walking fast, and, his heart melting at the sight, he led us to a mango grove that was nearby the road.
"Standing under the shade of one of the trees, Bhagavan said, 'We will stop here. There is a well, and if not here, we may not get water anywhere else near. I was hoping that she would give us up, but she could not. She is tired and is panting for breath. What a shame!' So saying, he sat down.
"Unable to discover our whereabouts, and coming up to the trees, Venamma began anxiously saying, 'Where has Bhagavan gone? There is no sign of him anywhere'. When Bhagavan heard this, he began laughing, whereupon she traced us to where we were and joined us. After eating what she had brought us, we began our walk again, Venamma now with us. From that day, we named the tree Venamma's mango tree.
"Bhagavan used to tell us that sometimes he started for pradakshina at night and returned by daybreak. It was the usual thing to start so. Sometimes, however, we would start in the morning, with cooking utensils to cook food at noon either at Sona thirtham or at Gautamasram or at Pachyamman Shrine, eat, rest and return to the Asramam in the evening. Before the Asramam grew to its present size, we would go round leisurely, sometimes taking two days, or three days or even a week, camping en route.
"On one occasion, we started to go round in the morning with the intention of returning the same evening. We stopped at the Gautamasram, cooked our food, ate it and after taking some rest, packed all the milk, sugar, buttermilk, etc., that remained and started walking again. As we were approaching Adi Annamalai, Bhagavan began walking off on a side road and very fast. Thinking that he wished to avoid the crowds on the main road, we followed him.
"After going along a path for about half a furlong, we came to a tank. At the edge of the tank and under a tree, sat an old man, his body covered by a blanket and holding a small pot in his hand. This old man, whenever he heard that Bhagavan was coming round the hill, would await Bhagavan's arrival on the road and bring him something to eat. Not seeing him on the road, and lest the poor man should be troubled at missing him, Bhagavan had made the detour.
"Bhagavan, on seeing him, called him by name and began talking with him very simply. The old peasant prostrated before Bhagavan, then stood with folded hands, saying nothing. 'What is the matter?' said Bhagavan, 'why is it that I do not see you anywhere these days? Are crops and cattle all right. How are the children?' And then, 'What is in the pot?' queried Bhagavan.
"Very hesitantly, the old man said, 'Nothing particular, Swami. I came to know that you were coming. I wanted to bring something as usual to offer you, but there was nothing in the house. When I asked my old woman, she said, 'There is ample food in the cook-pot; you can take it to them'. Unable to decide what to do, I put some of the food into this small pot, but ashamed to face you with only this sort of food to offer you, I was sitting here, Swami.'
"Bhagavan, seemingly very pleased, exclaimed, 'Oh! Cooked food, is it? That is excellent. Why be ashamed? It will be very good. Let me have it'. As the old man was still hesitating, Bhagavan took the pot from him, sat down under a tree and told his followers to unload all the things they had brought. We unloaded accordingly. Bhagavan took out from among the cooking things, a big open mouthed tin-lined vessel into which he put all the food, poured in a lot of water, and mixed it well into a paste with his hand; then from some left-overs amongst our things, he took out some limes and squeezed the juice into the mixture, poured in some buttermilk, and made the whole thing into a liquid. Finally he mixed some salt and dry ginger powder, then took out a tumbler full of the liquid, drank it, and said, 'Oh, this is delicious!' Then looking at us all, he said, 'All of you, mix some sugar with that milk left over and drink it; our luggage will be lighter. I have this food; so what need have I for the milk? This is first rate food for me in this hot weather. It is also very nourishing, and has many other good qualities too. But you wouldn't like it, do drink the milk, and please give my share of it and the sugar to this old man'.
"We accordingly mixed the sugar with the milk and, after giving some to the old man, we drank the rest. Bhagavan was meanwhile talking sociably with the old farmer and taking two or three tumblers full of the liquid preparation saying that it was like nectar. He then said to the old man, 'My stomach is quite full. I feel that I shan't be able to take any food tonight. Take the rest of this liquid food home'. So saying, he gave the remaining food to the old man, who accepted it as though it were nectar. Wiping the tears of joy that were welling up into his eyes, he took leave of us and went off to his cottage.'
"Until recently'', I said, "that old man used to come to see Bhagavan every now and then. Vyasa wrote in glowing terms in the Bhagavatam about the beaten rice that Kuchela presented to Lord Krishna. Had he seen this Lord's kindly act, how much more glowingly would he have written!"
The small tumour which showed itself on the left upper arm of Bhagavan in November 1948, began growing from day to day so that by 1-2-1949 it became as big as a marble. The doctor in charge of the Asramam hospital Dr. Sankara Rao, and a retired surgeon Dr. Srinivasa Rao pointed out to Bhagavan and offered to remove it by a small surgical operation. Bhagavan however did not agree to it. As it continued to grow rapidly, the doctors got perturbed and somehow prevailed upon Bhagavan to agree to its removal. Accordingly the first operation was performed on the morning of 9-2-1949.
All the devotees wanted the bandage to be covered so as not to be visible to outsiders. But then, was there an upper cloth to cover it? Was there a shirt to wear? The only thing Bhagavan had was a white cloth half-a-yard wide and three-fourths of a yard long. He tied it around his neck so as to conceal the bandage. Still the bandage was visible through the gaps. When some people who had the courage to ask him, enquired what was the matter, Bhagavan used to reply with a laugh, that he had worn a bracelet on the arm or that a Lingam had been born there, or that it was a Swayambhu Lingam. Some time later the bandage was removed. People said that the wound was healing up.
Somehow, everyone forgot about it during the bustle of the Kumbhabhishekam which took place on 17-3-1949. As soon as the festivities were over all people came to know that the tumour had shown itself again. Some suggested treatment with green leaves and milk of the fig tree. Others brought a medicated plaster and put it on. On 27-3-1949, Raghavachari and other doctors who came from Madras, said that none of those remedies would do and that the tumour must be operated upon again. They left after deciding that a second operation should be performed and promised to come back on 3-4-1949 for the purpose.
I was somehow frightened and in a prayerful attitude, entreated Bhagavan saying, "Why all these operations? Why do you not cure yourself by getting some medicine prescribed by yourself and using it, the same as you did when you had jaundice?"
Bhagavan replied, "They are all reputed doctors. Let their treatment be carried out."
When I said that they had already performed an operation which had been found unsuccessful and enquired why Bhagavan should not have his own treatment, Bhagavan said, "Let it go this time. If it appears again, we will see about it."
On the morning 3-4-1949, while we were discussing about the details of the operation in the presence of Bhagavan, the doctors came. Seeing them, Bhagavan said, "Look. The doctors have come," and began arranging his legs preparatory to getting up. Bhagavan was showing in practice in this matter also his 'Upadesa' (teaching): Whatever is to happen will happen and whatever is not to happen will not happen. Bhagavan said with a firm voice, "Yes. That which is to happen will not stop even if we say 'no'." So saying he got down from the couch and went into the hospital. Till about the middle of May 1949, everything went on fairly satisfactorily. But afterwards there was an all round anxiety and worry because when the stitches were removed blood began oozing from the place where the operation had been performed. The tumour had not healed and was clearly exhibiting its malignancy.
As it was suggested that it would do good to expose the tumour to the sun's rays, in June 1949, the doctors used to seat Bhagavan behind the 'Gosala' (cow-shed), open the bandage, wash the wound and keep it exposed for some time to the sun's rays. On such occasions, devotees who expressed their fear and anxiety were told by Bhagavan, "See how nice it is! It is like a precious ruby. It has become an ornament to my arm. See how red it is! It is glowing brilliantly with the sun's rays falling on it. Look at it!" And when they saw blood oozing out and remarked about it with great grief, he used to say, "Why worry? Let the blood flow out. It is a ruby, you see. Like the 'Syamanathakamani' (a kind of valuable gem) this is also producing gold every day. The only difference is, in that case, the gold that was produced was yellow while in this case it is red. See how much is oozing out." And if any devotees prayed to him to heal himself, he used to say "What have I to do with this?" or "What can I do?"
On 5-7-1949, an old man from Valuvai, a village nearby and a reputed Ayurvedic doctor, started applying the juice of some green leaves and bandage the wound. Before he began the treatment, he saw the wound in all its malignancy and remarked with immense grief. "Oh Bhagavan! How serious this is! Swami, this is cancer. This should not be touched at all. Why did you allow it to be operated on? If I had known it in the beginning, I would have dressed it with green leaves containing medical properties and cured it. It is too late now Swami." When Bhagavan was returning to the hall after leaving the hospital in the evening of 1-7-1949, his body began to shake and his legs began to falter. He had fever. He somehow reached the hall and squatted on the couch. While we were all alarmed and were anxiously looking at him, Santhamma could not contain herself and, being elderly, and a very old devotee, took the liberty of addressing Bhagavan and said, "Oh, the body!" No sooner had she said this than Bhagavan remarked, "Oh, the body? Why? What has happened? It is shaking. What if it shakes?" So saying, he suppressed the shivering, and looking at his attendants, said with a laugh, "That is Nataraja's dance. Why should you be afraid? If everyday the body is giving you Darshan in its static form, today it is giving it to you in a dance pose. Why all this anxiety?" So saying, he sat there in dignified silence. The Vedaparayanam was then done.
On 7-8-1949 Dr. Guruswami Mudaliar was here personally to supervise the third operation. I had already written to you that it was from that date that questions and answers in Bhagavan's presence had become rare. After the final operation was performed on 19-12-1949, Bhagavan did not come into either the new hall or the old hall. He confined himself to the small room opposite to the big hall. After homeopathic treatment was tried Ayurvedic treatment began. The Moos (a famous Ayurvedic doctor from Kerala) who was treating Bhagavan felt discouraged and on 3-3-1950 he wrote a Stothram in praise of Bhagavan and arranged for its Parayana along with Vishnu Sahasranamam (thousand names of Vishnu), every day. Some devotees performed Surya namaskar (salutation to the Sun) and some began doing Mrityunjaya Japam (prayer to Lord Siva, the conqueror of death). Just as he had handed over his body to the doctors to do whatever they liked with it, saying 'Yes, yes' he was accepting the offerings of those devotees in the shape of Tirtha (consecrated water) and Prasadams (offerings of food to the gods).
After the Mrityunjaya Japam was over, the people concerned asked him if they could proceed with the Mrityunjaya Homam. He nodded in assent and as soon as they left turned towards Venkataratnam and said, "Extinction of ego and abidance in Self is the Mrityunjaya Homam. In Devikalottaram, v.16 and v.17, it is stated that one should not get immersed in mantrams, homams and such things. Also in Sarvajnanottaram, v.35, it is said that abidance in Self itself is the mantra, the devata, the diksha, the tapas, the homam and the dhyana." About the same time a lady devotee had 'Chandi Homam' performed. Another lady lighted holy candles to appease Sani (Saturn). Some had Abhisheka and other Pujas performed in Arunachaleswara temple.
On 17-3-1950 Bhagavan had some vomiting with consequent discomfort and so did not take any food subsequently. Hearing that, his sister Alamelu went to him and said, "Oh, Bhagavan! It seems you have not taken anything at all. Today's payasam (pudding) is very tasteful. You have not taken even a drop of it." Bhagavan however sent her away with some words of comfort.
From the time the cancer showed itself, I always used to pray to Bhagavan whenever I could manage to see him, "Please get yourself cured of this ailment and remain in this world for our sake." Bhagavan used to console me with some comforting words or other. When the third and the fourth operations were performed and I expressed my fear and anxiety, he used to say that there was no need for worry and there was nothing really seriously wrong. Hence, however serious the ailment was, and however much other people felt anxious and discouraged, I used to think that Bhagavan would hint to me if there was anything imminent. That egoism enveloped my whole being and blinded me to the grim realities of the situation. I was therefore confident that he would get cured ultimately.
On 19-3-1950 was the Lunar New Year's Day. From the time I had come here, it had been usual for me to offer to Bhagavan for his personal wear a khaddar towel and a koupina and arrange for Bhiksha in the Asramam that day. As I did not like to give it up this year, I took with me a towel and koupina in the evening at about 7 o'clock of 18-3-1950, went into that small room accompanied by our post-master, Raja Iyer. Bhagavan stared at me. I quietly placed the clothes on the table and said the next day was the Ugadi (New Year's Day). Bhagavan started at that and said, "Is the Ugadi come? Is the Vikruti (the name of the new year) come?" There was something strange and perplexing in that voice. And I cannot explain why, but it seemed to forebode something disastrous and it was to me heart-rending. The two attendants stood aghast. I too could say nothing and so mumbled, "I felt it would be inauspicious if I gave up my usual practice." Bhagavan said, "Oh! What is there in that?" and looking at one of the attendants by name Anjaneyalu who was by his side, he said, "Keep those clothes carefully. Nagamma has brought them. Tomorrow it is Ugadi, it seems." So saying, in a very gentle manner he gave us leave to go. As the attendants were removing the clothes, I went near the couch and asked Bhagavan, "How is the arm?" Bhagavan said, "What shall I say how it is?" I told Bhagavan, "You must somehow cure yourself." Bhagavan replied, "Ahem. I cannot say anything now." I pleaded with great humility, "How could you say that, Bhagavan?" Perhaps he felt that my hopes would not go unless he told me the bare truth and so looking at me with compassion, he said, "Ahem. Cure? What cure?" I said, "Ayyo! Will it not be cured?" Bhagavan replied, "Ahem. Cure? What cure? How could there be any cure now?" The previous assurance that there was nothing to worry about and nothing would happen - all of them disappeared at that moment and when I heard those words, my whole body shook with fear. My eyes filled with tears and my voice got choked. I wanted to ask about our fate for the future and so was trying to gather some composure of mind and open my lips when someone from the office came in hurriedly on some urgent work. I was startled by that noise and came out without asking what I wanted to ask and slowly retraced my steps to my hut. The next morning I thought of approaching Bhagavan again and ask for his final message, but could not get an opportunity. The resonant voice of Bhagavan that said, "Is the Ugadi come?" appeared to me to say, "All is over." With that Ugadi the great privilege I had all these years of hearing and enjoying the nectar of Bhagavan's voice ended.
On the evening of 14-4-1950, I went at 6-30 and stood in the queue arranged for an orderly Darshan of Bhagavan and when I got up on the raised mound opposite the door of the room where Bhagavan was sitting, and stood there for a while with my sight concentrated on him and prayed to him mentally, "Oh Prabho! Won't you for once radiate on me your compassionate look?" Bhagavan's eyes slowly began to open and from those eyes, a mild and compassionate look came on me. That was the last time I had the great fortune of his compassionate look.
At 8-47 that night, Sri Ramana, the embodiment of light and enlightenment, left his mortal coil.
When the mortal body of Gurudev, who was at once my mother, father, Guru and God and who has protected me all these years, ceased to be the abode of that great soul, I remained still as a statue, drowned in inexpressible grief and sorrow.
The writing of these letters was begun on 21-11-1945 and continued uninterrupted all these days through the grace of Bhagavan, and with the end of the Avatar of Bhagavan, I am giving up the writing of these letters.
OM TAT SAT