Reminiscences of Bhagavan Ramana
By V. Ganesan
Moments Remembered form a collection of reminiscences which Sri V. Ganesan lovingly culled from his many years of contact with the senior most devotees of Sri Ramana. Appearing regularly over the last five years in The Mountain Path magazine, devotees would await and enjoy each instalment of the new reminiscences.
Knowing Ganesan quite closely, my husband and I were fortunate to join him during a number of these story sessions. On many occasions we would join a small group of devotees and listen with rapt attention to even the simplest detail of Bhagavan's life. Sitting on the rocks of the base of Arunachala, the temple bells would ring in the distance while the setting sun illumined the evening sky. As the devotee spoke his face would glow with the radiant presence of Sri Ramana. We were effortlessly transported to that Presence and could even smell the incense wafting through the peace of the Old Hall where the story was often set. It is this special transmission of grace which shines through the collected reminiscences in Moments Remembered.
Joan Greenblatt, Ramana Publications P.O.Box 1326, Sarasota, FL 34230, U.S.A.
4. Darling Ramana
Smt. Subbalakshmi, wife of Dr. M. R. Krishnamurthi Iyer, is a very staunch devotee of Sri Bhagavan. She described another beautiful incident of Bhagavan's overflowing Grace. One day in the streets a portrait of Sri Seshadri Swami was being taken round in a procession, with the usual playing of pipes and beating of drums. On seeing it, Smt. Subbalakshmi got a strong urge to have a large portrait of Bhagavan in her home and to worship it. She then went inside the house and bolted the door. Soon after, someone knocked at the door. When she opened it, to her great surprise, there was a man holding a big framed photo of Sri Bhagavan! He said that he was coming from Tirupattur, that he was an electrician by profession, and that he was directed to leave the photo there. He added that he would return after paying a visit to the Ashram. I garlanded Bhagavan's photo and was in ecstasy. My children returned from school and seeing the beautiful photo of Bhagavan they also jumped with joy, shouting: 'Bhagavan has come to our house'. When my husband returned home, the children reported to him that Bhagavan had come to their home. He was surprised when I told him that I thought that he had sent the photo through the electrician. When we were at lunch, the person returned from the Ashram. He explained: 'I did some electrical work in Major Chadwick's room. When he offered money, I pleaded with him to give me instead the large framed photo of Sri Bhagavan, which he did. I was worshiping it in my house, doing regular puja. One day, I got possessed; I was heard shouting: 'Go and give this photo at once to Dr. Krishnamurthi Iyer residing in Avarankattu Street.' My father directed me to you and now I am giving you the photo!' So saying, he went away. The same evening we all went to Bhagavan and told him the whole story. Ramana, the Darling, looked benignly at me and at my family-members, and there reigned only Peace!''
10. Joyful Ramana
Long before Rajkumari Prabhavati Raje got married she presented Bhagavan with a pair of bookends with a specific request that Bhagavan should keep them Himself and not give them away to the office or to any one else. Beside Bhagavan was a rotating bookshelf, and He often referred to the books kept there. Books were heaped above it also. Seeing this Prabhavati Raje brought the bookends and insisted that they should be used there. Years passed; she was married and had to live away from Bhagavan.
Those were the days of Bhagavan's bodily existence. Prabhavati came to offer her homage to her Beloved Master. She joined the long queue and waited for the darshan. Bhagavan was very weak but He insisted on giving darshan to devotees in spite of the medical advice against it. Each devotee could have only a glimpse of Him before moving on to make room for the next. When Prabhavati stood transfixed Bhagavan was compassionate enough to shower His gracious look on her and simultaneously He directed the look towards the inside of the room. Since she did not understand His gesture He took the trouble of raising His right hand (His left hand was afflicted by sarcoma) and stretched it towards the bookshelf or rather above the bookshelf. The bookends presented by her were there put to good use by Him though many years had rolled by. She was thrilled. How the Master fulfilled even the simplest wishes of the devotee! Not only that. The incident assumes greater importance when we take into account Bhagavan's very bad state of health and the effort it would have cost Him to move and point to the bookends. Prabhavati burst into tears and sobbed. Bhagavan blessed her profusely through His gracious look!
In the roof of the Old Hall, squirrels would build nests. Once, some new-born squirrels dropped on Bhagavan's sofa. Their eyes remained yet unopened and the size of each baby may not have been more than an inch; they were very red in colour with fresh flesh, absolutely tender to touch. The mother squirrel ignored them. Now what to do? How to feed and attend to such tender things?
The baby squirrels were in the palm of Bhagavan. Bhagavan's face glowed with love and affection for them. While there was a question mark in the faces of those who surrounded Bhagavan, He Himself was happy and cheerful. He asked for some cotton to be brought. He made a soft bed for them. He also took a bit of cotton and squeezed it to such a tiny end, the end portion looked like a sharp pin. He dipped it in milk and squeezed milk into the tiny mouths. At regular intervals, Bhagavan repeated this act of compassion. He tended them with great care and love till they grew up and ran around. They did not run away, only ran around their 'Mother'. Kinder far than their own mother!
12. Lovely Ramana
On another occasion, again when Palani Swami and Perumal Swami had gone to town and when Bhagavan was all alone, a few fierce-looking bairagis (wandering sadhus) came to Virupaksha Cave. Seeing Bhagavan seated alone they told Him, with vehemence: "We are coming straight from the Vindhya Hills. We had darshan of the great Siddha there. He has commanded us to bring you over there. So, we are taking you along with us back to Vindhyas, as ordered by the great Siddha''. Bhagavan, as usual, remained silent and unmoved. But the bairagis, as was their want, made much noise. Some woodcutters who witnessed this drama went down and told Perumal Swami about the wild-looking bairagis. Perumal Swami came and saw them. He then went back to the town, brought a big vessel and tins of oil, put them in front of the ruffians and started gathering fire-wood. The bairagis and Bhagavan were astonished at the strange behaviour of Perumal Swami. The former did not know who Perumal Swami was. They enquired who he was and what he was up to. Perumal Swami put the big vessel on the oven and said: "I belong to the next village. I had a vision last night of the great Siddha of Vindhyas. He commanded me: 'Go to Virupaksha Cave. You will find some bairagis there. They are Siddhas too, having great powers. Pour boiling oil on them and they will be alive and untouched by the oil'. To my great surprise when I came to this Cave, as told by the Siddha, you were all here. What a fool I was to doubt the holy words of the Siddha. Immediately, I rushed to town and brought the vessel and the tins of oil. Would I not incur a curse if I disobey the Siddha? When Perumal Swami went inside the cave to put his clothes there, the bairagis took to their heels! Bhagavan had a big laugh, and Perumal Swami joined Him.
18. Resplendent Ramana
Sri Ramaswami Pillai narrated this moving incident:
"Miracles did take place in the presence of Sri Bhagavan. Strangely people like me, very close to Sri Bhagavan, never cared to notice anything happening, as we were all so thoroughly absorbed in Him, in His Presence!
"However, I am able to recollect a 'Miracle' that took place. But, please don't expect a display of spectacular siddhi. Yet, for me, this happening was a perfect siddhi, spontaneously performed by Bhagavan.
"A person from a town near Tiruvannamalai lost the sight of both eyes owing to small pox or severe fever. He was advised that if he went to Sri Ramanasramam, Ramana Maharshi would give him back his eyesight. With an assistant he arrived at the Ashram and was enquiring his way to Sri Bhagavan's Hall.
"A few days back two young doctors had arrived for darshan of Bhagavan. They were totally captivated by Him. They were about to leave for Madras in their car. They had taken leave of Him and had just gone up to their car when they had an urge to have one more glimpse of Sri Bhagavan and so returned to the Old Hall. Meanwhile the blind man had entered the Hall and was praying to Sri Bhagavan that his eyesight be somehow restored by His Grace. Bhagavan was listening to everything, but kept absolutely silent. The doctors who had witnessed this, voluntarily offered to take the blind man in their car to Madras and treat him. So the blind man went with them eventually to Madras.
"After some months when I was one day in Bhagavan's Hall a man came and prostrated to Him. He happily expressed great gratitude to Bhagavan for having restored his sight in one eye. The doctors, so he reported, took special care of him and did their best but could restore sight only in one eye. Bhagavan, again, listened to him unmoved, as if He had nothing to do with it!
"This is the natural way Bhagavan performed miracles. Rather, in His Presence plenty of miracles occurred daily, but who cared to pay any attention to siddhis, which, after all, are only fleeting experiences?''
19. Supreme Ramana
Sri Kunju Swami narrated the following:
"Sri Bhagavan used to go into the kitchen by 4 a.m. and start cutting vegetables; one or two of us would also join and help. Sometime the amount of vegetables used to startle us. Bhagavan managed to cut much more and more quickly than the rest of us.
"At such times we would look up at the clock in our impatience to finish the job and try and have another nap. Bhagavan would sense our impatience and say: 'Why do you look at the clock?' We tried to bluff Bhagavan saying: 'If only we could complete the work before 5, we could meditate for an hour.' Bhagavan would mildly retort: 'The allotted work has to be completed in time. Other thoughts are obstacles, not the amount of work. Doing the allotted work in time is itself meditation. Go ahead and do the job with full attention.' Sri Bhagavan thus taught us the importance of right, honest work''.
22. Victorious Ramana
I had to be away from the Ashram for nearly two months and when I returned I saw Sri Cohen in a much worse condition and confined to a wheel-chair. His talk was no longer coherent: "See, Ganesan, I am maimed. Yet, the management has suddenly shifted me to a room on the seventh floor and there is no water there. What can I do?'' -- "They say they have given me an exclusive room for myself, but see, in the night nearly 12 people sleep here, squatting around me.'' -- "Don't think there is only one Kannan (servant), there are nine Kannans, all looking alike!''
I cried on seeing his pathetic condition and told Him: "Mr. Cohen! You are the most intelligent sadhak I have met. Why are you talking so incoherently?'' He then adjusted himself and squarely looked at my face and said: "When the body becomes old, you lose control over it. And so over the mind also. But you are not the body and you are not the mind! So, don't give any importance to how the body or the mind behaves. They are not 'me'.'' I was astounded when he said that since just a few minutes back he was talking sheer nonsense! Then, I asked him "If you are not the mind nor the body, who is speaking to me? Who are you? In which state are you, now?''
"I am pure spirit, witnessing what takes place through the body and mind. I have nothing to do with them. I am in the presence of my Master: Guru Ramana, enjoying His benign and blissful presence! I am pure ananda!'' As he uttered these words I saw a different Mr. Cohen, the one we had known for years with all his brightness and serenity.
After some time, he again started talking incoherently. It was a great revelation, a clinical laboratory demonstration of the fact 'I-am-not-the-body-mind'!
While Mr. Cohen thus saw the light in the midst of darkness, Mr. Chadwick saw life in the face of death. Major Chadwick was admitted in the C.M.C. Hospital in Vellore. His tongue had swollen so much that it filled the entire mouth, preventing him from even making noises. The doctors put questions to him and he could not reply. His end was nearing. A few devotees from the Ashram went to Vellore to see him and comfort him. Surprisingly, Sri Chadwick, started speaking to them: "Today is Easter!'' he said. When it was pointed out to him that Easter was a few days hence, he clearly answered them, in his usual loud, clear voice: "Yes! I know. But, for me, today is Easter!''
Yes! That was the day of resurrection for this Ramana bhakta. Who spoke those words but the Spirit within?
When Mr. Arthur Osborne was in Bangalore and the end near, he could not speak at all. As a ritual farewell Mrs. Lucia Osborne went round (clock-wise) the prostrate body of her beloved husband. Suddenly, she heard distinctly in her husband's voice: "Thank you!''. Who spoke those words if not His Self?
Spiritual being beyond name and form, mind and body, is our real nature, affirms Victorious Ramana, Conqueror of Death.