My Recollections of Bhagavan Sri Ramana
By A. Devaraja Mudaliar
Bhagavan, however, from what little I know of him, was not one who believed in forcing the pace. On the contrary, he gave me the impression that he felt it was not proper and was not for our real good, that he should interfere and do violence to our nature or Prakriti by hurrying us at a faster pace than we are built for, even towards realisation. Compare the following lines of Rabindranath Tagore in Gitanjali:
"Time is endless in Thy hands, my Lord!
Days and nights pass and ages bloom and fade like flowers.
Thou knowest how to wait,
Thy centuries follow each other, perfecting a small wild flower
We have no time to lose and having no time
We must scramble for our chances. We are too poor to be late.''
This seems an appropriate place for referring to another well known characteristic of Bhagavan. To those who have only a very superficial knowledge of him or his works, it might seem that he was a cold, relentlessly logical, unemotional jnani, far removed from the bhakta who melts into tears in contemplation of God's Grace and love. But to those who had any real experience of Bhagavan and his ways, and works, it was clear that he was as much a bhakta as a jnani. Often he has told us that only a jnani can be a true bhakta. The complete extinction of the ego is the end attained either in jnana or bhakti. Further dissertation on this head is not necessary here; I mean only to refer to the fact that on many occasions when touching songs were recited or read out before him, or when he himself was reading out to us poems or passages from the lives or works of famous saints, he would be moved to tears and would find it impossible to restrain them. He would be reading out and explaining some passage and when he came to a very moving part he would get so choked with emotion that he could not continue but would lay aside the book.
One summer afternoon I was sitting opposite Bhagavan in the old hall, with a fan in my hand and said to him: "I can understand that the outstanding events in a man's life, such as his country, nationality, family, career or profession, marriage, death, etc., are all predetermined by his karma, but can it be that all the details of his life, down to the minutest, have already been determined? Now, for instance, I put the fan that is in my hand down on the floor here. Can it be that it was already decided that on such and such a day, at such and such an hour, I shall move the fan like this and put it down here?''
Bhagavan replied "Certainly''. He continued: "Whatever this body is to do and whatever experience it is to pass through was already decided when it came into existence.''
In Bhagavan's own case, as in that of his famous fore-runner Sankara, we can see how Jnana and Bhakti were inextricably blended. Once Krishna Prem ( a learned and devout Englishman who has become an ascetic and is now living in an asramam of his own near Almora in the Himalayas) visited Bhagavan, and when I had a chat with him subsequently at Madras he said: "Many people had told me Bhagavan was a pure jnani. But I consider him a very great Bhaktha. When I showed him my image of Lord Krishna, which I worship and carry about with me, tears came into his eyes as he handled it and gave it back to me. If this is not Bhakthi, what else is it?''
When Sri Jagadisa Sastri, the Sanskrit Pandit in Bhagavan's court, was on his death bed, and wrote his final appeal in his poems declaring that he would not accept any plea by Bhagavan that prarabdha must follow its course, and that if only Bhagavan willed it His Grace would cancel prarabdha and save him. Bhagavan took such compassion on him that he was pulled out of the jaws of death and is now flourishing in Madras. Not only I but many other close devotees of Bhagavan fully believe that it was only Bhagavan's Grace that saved the Sastri from certain death.
Most of the time I lived with Bhagavan, I used to feel peaceful and absolutely free from care. That, as many can testify, was the outstanding effect of his presence. Nevertheless, it did occasionally happen that something disturbed the peace and happiness for a while. On one such occasion I asked Bhagavan: "Why do such interruptions come? Does it mean that we have ceased to have Bhagavan's Grace then?''
With what graciousness did Bhagavan reply: "You, crazy fellow! The trouble or want of peace comes only because of Grace.''
On other occasions also Bhagavan has similarly told me: "You people are glad and grateful to God when things you regard as good come to you. That is right, but you should be equally grateful when things you regard as bad come to you. That is where you fail.''
Here I must say that the only method, I have adopted to achieve liberation or Self-realisation is simply to throw myself on Bhagavan, to surrender to him as completely as lies in my power, and to leave everything else to him. And Bhagavan's teaching, the last I ever got from him before he attained Mahasamadhi, was just this: "Your business is simply to surrender and leave everything to me. If one really surrenders completely, there is no room for him to complain that the Guru has not done this or that.''
Another foreign visitor, an elderly gentleman, set out to explore the hill behind the Asramam after lunch on day and lost his way. What with the heat and the exertion the old man was soon in a sorry plight and did not know what to do to get back to the Asramam or which way to go. At that juncture Bhagavan happened to pass by and showed him the way to the Asramam, and the man returned safely. Friends at the Asramam asked him where he had been all that long while and he replied: "I just went out for a stroll on the hill but got lost. The heat and exertion were a little too much for me and I was in a bad way. I don't know what I would have done but for the fact that Bhagavan happened to come that way and directed me to the Asramam.''
The asramites were astonished because they knew that Bhagavan had never left the hall.
There is of course the well known instance of Bhagavan having appeared before Kavya Kanta Ganapathi Sastrigal at Tiruvottiyur, bodily, when Sastrigal was wide awake. This is mentioned in Bhagavan's biography. Bhagavan was bodily present both at the Asramam and at Tiruvottiyur at the same time. I and others have received confirmation of this incident from Bhagavan's own lips.
All Jnani's like our Bhagavan regard the body only as a burden to be discarded.
Long before this conversation with Mr. Sastriar, Bhagavan had discussed this question with us. He said: "Suppose you go to a firewood depot, buy a faggot of firewood and engage a coolie there to carry it to your house. As you walk along with him, he will be anxiously looking forward to his destination so that he can throw off his burden and be happy and relieved. In the same way the Jnani is anxious to throw off his body''. I believe he quoted a Tamil stanza which contains the above statement. However, after explaining this he added: "The above exposition is all right as far as it goes. But strictly speaking even this is not quite accurate. The true jnani is not even anxious to shed his body, he is indifferent alike to the existence or non-existence of the body, being almost unaware of it''.
From the night of April 13th his state was seen to be critical, nevertheless he insisted on the 14th that the crowd of devotees should not be denied their darshan of him. So we all filed past the open doorway of the little room where he lay and had darshan in the morning of the 14th and again at about 6-30 in the evening. He attained Mahasamadhi at 8-47 p.m. on April 14, 1950 and at the same moment a meteor-like flash, leaving a trail some yards long, appeared in the sky to the south-west and moved north eastwards to Arunachala Hill where it disappeared behind the peak. The light that was Bhagavan thus merged in the Pillar of Light that was and is Arunachala, the Sacred Hill.