My Life at Sri Ramanasramam
By Suri Nagamma
Translated from Telugu by D. S. Sastri
From a perusal of the present book My Life at Sri Ramanasramam it will be noted that Nagamma's early life was full of trials and tribulations. She lost her father when she was four years of age, her mother when she was ten and her husband when she was twelve. As a result of the series of calamities she got drowned in an ocean of sorrow and confined herself to a small room in her parent's house rarely getting out of it, so much so, she did not know what sunshine was for several years. At that time there happened to be in that room some books on ancient lore such as Mahabaratam, Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita which she read over and over again. Her mind thereby got attuned towards God.
After some years she came out of her solitude and began moving about in the midst of the families of her brothers and sister with the intention of serving them by way of Nishkama Karma. Soon she got dissatisfied with it and began going about on pilgrimage to various places in the country in search of a Sadguru. That is how she ultimately landed at Sri Ramanasramam.
Life in an Ashram is never smooth sailing; it is beset with hardships, innumerable obstacles and several pitfalls, and Nagamma has had her due share of them. This book gives a detailed description of how Bhagavan, with his advice and guidance, helped her to get over all those difficulties.
This book gives such great details of the life of a Sadhak in an Ashram, it can be confidently expected that one who goes through it carefully and does Sadhana in the manner indicated therein will be greatly benefited thereby.
- Akhandam Sitarama Sastri
I was hardly eleven years when I was married. Like ladies mentioned in the puranas, I thought I could attain salvation by devotedly serving my husband but, only a year later, he passed away suddenly after an attach if small-pox, conferring on me a lifelong widowhood. I was too young at the time to realise the full implications of the calamity. Even so, I was heart-broken and, brooding over my misfortune, confined myself all alone to one of the rooms in our big house. I had no taste for food and rarely went out of the house. So I became very pale and suffered from stomach disorders. I was lying on the floor all the time on a torn mat, my hand for a pillow, and resembled a lizard clinging to the wall. Whenever anyone came to see me, I wept bitterly. Several months passed thus.
I did not like to remain any more in the family atmosphere I had been long accustomed to. The desire to know from some great soul the path of liberation grew intensively in me. Although I had heard of several eminent men in the spiritual field, no one appeared to have the attributes of the siddhapurusha I had seen in my dream and so I could not accept any one of them as my Guru. Whenever possible, I used to go to Kanaka Durga temple in Vijayawada and pray to Her as the presiding deity of the place to bestow on me the favour of a sadguru. I dedicated to Her my Manasa Satakam. In that book there are quite a number of verses about the search for a sadguru.
The First Darshan
Though Bhagavan had not spoken to me at all, I was deeply impressed by him. I found in him a resemblance to the mahapurusha who once came into my dream and also saw all the attributes of a jivanmukta as described in Vasishtam and other vedantic books. He seemed unattached to anything, like water on a lotus leaf, sparkling in the sun. As I observed Bhagavan from day to day, I felt convinced that he was the person who could dispel my ignorance and that I should surrender myself into his care. However, I could not summon enough courage to say so in as many words.
There was absolute quiet in the hall. I entered trembling all over, placed the bundle at the feet of Bhagavan, folded my hands and with shaky voice said, "Here are the letters. I have been asked to hand them over to the Ashram. I have bundled them and brought them here. It is not merely a bundle of letters. It is my heart's treasure. Bhagavan may do whatever he likes with them. I never did the work for fame or wealth''. As I said that, tears rolled down my cheeks in abundance. Bhagavan looked at me with sympathy and received the bundle with both his hands. He turned it over and giving it to Rajagopala Iyer remarked, "Here it is. She has brought all the letters duly bundled. Take them and give them to the office." Meantime, I wiped my tears and sat in the front row reserved for the ladies. My sister-in-law sat by my side. My tears did not stop.
Resumption of Writing Letters
One day, I felt tired of writing and wished some one would help me in the work. Feeling that way, I went to Bhagavan and sat before him. He proceeded to casually tell the story of the sparrow and Garuda and incidentally remarked:
"People who do good work and have a mind to choose self-enquiry never give up their work, although they feel it to be a burden. As in the case of the sparrow in the story, help comes from somewhere, just as Garuda came to the help of the bird. By God's grace help comes of its own accord." This very timely message came to me most unexpectedly and cheered me up considerably.
Every now and then, people from the Ashram office used to enquire, if I was still writing letters and I used to say no. I was, however, feeling guilty because it was not true. I used to wonder why I should continuously have to speak lies and why I should write letters in that adverse atmosphere; also why I should not give up the work altogether. With these doubts and fears worrying me, I went up to Bhagavan one day only to find him relating incidents of his childhood days. "I too told a lie to my aunt on the day I left Madurai'', said Bhagavan. He added, "It is not we that speak the lie. Some force makes us say so. Even Sankara took to sanyasa only by telling a lie." In this way Bhagavan cleared all my doubts concerning the letters.
Healing of Another Tumour
Bhagavan had a cousin called Ramaswami. His wife, Ammalamma, came for the Kumbhabhishekam and stayed on for a while. One morning that venerable old lady came to Bhagavan and, after prostrating, told him that a relative was sick and that she had to go. Noticing that she had a tumour as big as a lime fruit on the upper portion of her neck Bhagavan asked her what it was. She said she did not know but that it was slowly increasing in size. She said there was no pain unless it was pressed. "Oh! Yes, Yes," said Ramana. "See. How it is growing. The one on my arm was of the same nature. If the plasters and medicine received from Nellore are applied, that tumour may heal up." Bhagavan looked at one of the devotees sitting near him, asking him to fetch the required items. "It seems it is a good medicine," explained the Master. "Let her at least be cured; it is no use for me as I have been operated upon."
When the devotee brought the tin containing the medicine, Bhagavan took it and looking at me said, "Here is the medicine. Give it to her. Let her at least be cured." As soon as he said this the woman's son, Viswanatha Brahmachari, came in. Bhagavan called him and said, "Look! Give this to your mother. I have been operated upon, you see. So why use this medicine for me? Let her get the benefit of it instead." The lady, took the medicine as prasadam ( a holy gift ). It seems she applied the plaster with some green leaves, and cotton lint dipped in milk and finally the tumour disappeared. When I heard Bhagavan saying, "Let her at least be cured," I felt very disheartened. Did it mean he would not get cured? If the doctors had said that they had removed the tumour completely and that it would not recur, why were we hearing such ominous words from Bhagavan? My head began to reel with all sorts of misgivings.
Where will Bhagavan Go?
On 23rd July, after Bhagavan had read a letter from a Madurai devotee, he said to me, "Look! This devotee asks why there should be so many sorts of treatment for Bhagavan? Would it not be better if one of the devotees took over Bhagavan's ailment?
Overwhelmed with grief, I replied, "Yes. That is correct. Instead of you yourself suffering this pain, why don't you distribute it to all of us? Whenever food is brought to Bhagavan, you distribute it. So why not distribute the illness likewise. We do not have the ability to take it upon ourselves and so Bhagavan himself will have to pass it on to us. I am asking you to give it to me. Why not give it?"
As I said this, I burst into tears and could not say any more. Bhagavan merely looked at me with compassion, nodding his head and remained quiet. All the devotees in the hall shed tears. Bhagavan always conducts himself according to the situation. If anyone slightly familiar with Bhagavan would say in a powerful mood, "Please somehow cure yourself of this ailment," Bhagavan would merely answer, "What can I do? What have I to do? What is there for me to do?"
A similar thing happened three years previously. A great devotee had discussed the matter of Bhagavan's muscular pains with one of his attendants, Rajagopala Iyer. Afraid that the Master may not agree to costly medicines for relief, they purchased costly ingredients instead and prepared an ointment. As it was being done without his being told, Bhagavan remained indifferent. After the ointment was ready for application it was used for a day or two and then the devotee went away giving suitable instructions to the attendants. Four or five days later the skin became reddish and fissures developed. Bhagavan never complained about the pain or the fissures on the skin. When the attendants pointed out the cracks in the skin Bhagavan merely said, "That means that whatever is inside is coming out. Let it come out."
About the same time another devotee brought an electric heater. As it was the cold season, the heater was switched on for a day or two. The ointment and the blower further increased the fissures on the legs. All the devotees noticed it. Some began to say that it was due either to the ointment or the heater and that they both should be stopped immediately. Bhagavan remarked, "You see the ointment was prepared with costly ingredients with the idea that the muscular pains would subside quickly. This is the result. It is all right. They felt the usual charcoal stove was no good and so brought a costly and fashionable electric heater. Did they do all these things after asking me? They were afraid I might say 'No' and so they planned it this way. It was all with the best of intentions -- mainly to do to decline to use them, would they not think that they took a lot of trouble to serve Bhagavan and I have sighted them? Why should I make them feel slighted?" The devotee said, "Is it so necessary to consider these feelings when your whole body is covered with blisters?"
Bhagavan: "What of that? They have spent a lot of money. Will not all of that go waste?"
Devotee: "Why waste it? Someone else will use the articles."
Bhagavan: "What? A thing that does not suit me -- why should it be used for others and make them suffer?"
Devotee: "Then we will keep the ointment for use some time later."
The devotee insisted on stopping the use of the ointment and then prayed Bhagavan to suggest some other method of treatment. He suggested that myrobolams should be powdered and soaked in oil for some time before being brought to him for application. When that was done all the blisters disappeared in no time.
This time I felt Bhagavan also might be requested to suggest something to cure his condition. If at any time, such a suggestion is made he would say, "They are reputable doctors. They are doing something. Let them do it."
"Oh, Lord! Won't you for once turn your compassionate look on me?" I prayed thus to Bhagavan and stood there looking intently on him. His eyes slowly began to open. Noticing it, the people around him followed the direction of his eyes which turned towards the place arranged for darshan. From these eyes a cool look came to me. That look seemed to say, "Here, see me. How long do you want me to be in this damaged body? Won't you give up your fancy for this body?"
Immediately a great change came over my mind. I said to myself "All these days I have been praying to you not to go away leaving us desolate, but now I pray no more to that effect. We cannot bear to see the present condition of your body anymore. You need not bear this burden for our sake."
Ekaaki Yathachittathma (Living in Seclusion All Alone and Engaging the Mind in Meditation)
At Ramana Sadhana, I live alone with Bhagavan, as it were. Although there are no facilities for boarding and lodging as at the Ashram, some devotees do stay here for a day or two but that is rare. This solitary life has been my lot ever since 1941, when first I went to Arunachala. At that time, Bhagavan was there in his body; now he is in the photo, and that is all the company I have ever had all these years. People ask me how I manage to live alone and I invariably tell them that Bhagavan is there to protect me. The Master has graciously bestowed on me the fearlessness and courage which enable me to live the life of a sadhak as described in the Gita, in the following verse:
The Yogi who has subdued his mind and body and who is free from desire and bereft of possessions, living in seclusion all by himself alone, constantly engages his mind in meditation.
(Chapter VI : 10)
I trust in Bhagavan that I will ultimately be united with Him in the depths of peace.