By Arthur Osborne
Until the evening of Karthikai when, each year, a beacon is lit on the summit of Arunachala, or it may have been Deepavali, I am not quite sure, there were huge crowds for the festival and we were sitting in the courtyard outside the hall. Bhagavan was reclining on his couch and I was sitting in the front row before it. He sat up, facing me, and his narrowed eyes pierced into me penetrating, intimate, with an intensity I cannot describe. It was as though they said: "You have been told; why have you not realized?" And then quietness, a depth of peace, an indescribable lightness and happiness.
During these years I had felt no need to write about Bhagavan. After his body's death and his reassurance: "I am not going away; I am here; where could I go?", there was a dream in which he called me up to him and, as I knelt before his couch, placed his hands on my head in blessing. At this time an impulse came to write about Bhagavan and especially to explain the accessibility of the path of Self-enquiry which he taught. Most of the chapters in this books were written first as articles in various papers during the months following the Mahasamadhi and they have now been collected together and edited to form a book.
Chapter One: Ramana Arunachala
He was One with the Being that contains and transcends them. When he continued to wear the human form after transcending the human and all other states, he accepted its limitations - to feel heat and cold, to suffer pain and sickness, to be bound by ignorance of events. Had he worn a human body but set himself free from its conditions of pain and sickness and ignorance of events, people would have said: "It is easy for him to tell us to abide in the heart, unperturbed by events, because he has no pain or uncertainty and we have." But he accepted pain and uncertainty as features of the human form and showed that they cannot touch the equanimity of the Jnani, who remains fixed immovably in the Real. This gave force to his teaching, since he was but exhorting his devotees to do as he did.
However, the teaching of Sri Ramana is, by its nature, not intended to cause such an upheaval as that of Buddha or Christ or even Shankara, for he did not come to preach a new religion or to restore an existing one. His work was to open a new spiritual path suited to the conditions of the modern world and accessible to all who turned to him, from whatever religion or community they might be. That is to say that it is an appeal not to whole communities but to those individual among them who can see their own good and pursue it.
Chapter Two: The Man who was Ramana
Bhagavan Sri Ramana was meticulously exact, closely observant, practical and humorous. His daily life was conducted with a punctiliousness that Indians today would have to call pure Western. In everything he was precise and orderly. The Ashram hall was swept out several times daily. The books were always in their places. The clothes covering the couch were scrupulously clean and beautifully folded. The loin-cloth, which was all he wore, was gleaming white. The two clocks in the hall were adjusted daily to radio time. The calendar was never allowed to fall behind the date. The routine of life flowed to a regular pattern.
Although he was an absolute King and all craved to obey him, Bhagavan's life was, notwithstanding, a lesson in submission. Owing to his refusal to express any wish or desire, the Ashram authorities built up their own structure of regulations, and Bhagavan obeyed them without demur; so that if any devotee found them irksome he had before his eyes the example of Bhagavan's own submission. If ever Bhagavan resisted it was likely to be in the interests of the devotees, and even so it was usually in silence and very often in a manner dictated by his shrewd sense of humour. An attendant once rebuked a European woman for sitting with her legs stretched out. Bhagavan at once sat up cross-legged and continued so despite the pain caused by the rheumatism in his knees. When the devotees protested, he replied that the attendant's orders were for every one, and it was only when the lesson had been driven home that he consented to relax.
But it was not only submission to regulations; it was submission to all the conditions of life and to pain and sickness which taught us silently that pain cannot disturb the equanimity of one who abides in the Self. Throughout the long and painful sickness that finally killed his body he submitted loyally, one after another, to the doctors who were put in charge, never complaining, never asking for a change of treatment. If ever there was any inclination to try a different treatment it was only so that those who recommended it should not be disappointed: and even then it was made dependent on the consent of the Ashram authorities. If there is a tendency today to regard submission as spiritless it is only because egoism is regarded as natural.
We shall not again see the Divine Grace in human form or the love shining in his eyes, but in our hearts he is with us and will not leave us. His Grace continues to be poured out, not only on those who knew the miracle of his bodily form, but on all who turn to him in their hearts, now as before.
I have not given a clear picture of the man who was Ramana, but how can one portray the universal? What impressed one was his complete unselfconsciousness like that of a little child, his Divinity and intense humanity. The Divinity was recognized in the act of prostration and in addressing him in the third person as 'Bhagavan'. To have said 'you' would have been a jarring assertion of otherness. In speaking of himself Bhagavan spoke very simply and said 'I' or 'this'. Only occasionally, when the meaning clearly indicated it, did he used the third person: "If you remember Bhagavan, Bhagavan will remember you." "Even if you let go of Bhagavan, Bhagavan will never let go of you."
Chapter Three: The Direct Path
The task performed by Bhagavan Sri Ramana was to reopen the direct path of Self-enquiry which had become too arduous for our spiritually dark age. This path, with its theoretical basis of Advaita, stands, so to speak, at the source from which the various religions diverge and can therefore be approached from any side. Whether there are many or few who take it is not the question, only that it has been made open.
In itself, but for the Grace of Bhagavan, it would be the most inaccessible to modern man on account of its very simplicity and directness; and yet it is the most accessible, and in many cases the only accessible path, from the contingent point of view, since, because of its very directness, it requires no ritual or forms of worship, no priesthood or congregation, no outer signs or special observances, but can be practised in the workshop or kitchen or city office as well as in the monastery or hermitage.
In the same impersonal way a man can attend to all the affairs of life, knowing that he, the real Self, is unaffected by them; and every attack of greed, anger or desire can be dispelled by vichara. It must be dispelled, because it is no use repeating that one is the Self and acting as though one were the ego. Real, even partial, awareness of the Self weakens egotism: egotism, whether expressed as vanity, greed or desire, is a proof that recognition of the Self is merely mental.
This means that in adapting an ancient path to modern conditions Bhagavan has in effect created a new path. The ancient path of Self-enquiry was pure Jnana-marga to be followed by the recluse in silence and solitude, withdrawn from the outer world. Bhagavan has made it a path to be followed invisible in the world in the conditions of modern life.
Whosoever submits to him will be borne up and never forsaken. "God and Guru are not really different, they are identical. He who has earned the Grace of the Guru will undoubtedly be saved and never forsaken, just as the prey that has fallen into the tiger's jaws will never be allowed to escape. But the disciple, for his part should unswervingly follow the path shown by the Master."
Chapter Four: Arunachala Ramana
The spiritual power of Arunachala has become active again as it was long ago. Dakshinamurthi has moved down to the foot of the hill. He said, "I am not going away; I am here." He is here at Tiruvannamalai as before and at the same time he is spaceless Arunachala-Ramana, here in the heart of every devotee who turns to him, guiding them as before.
Bodily presence at Arunachala, at the shrine at the foot of the hill, is not necessary. The silent initiation, as before, can strike where it will. But for those who wear a body bodily presence remains a great aid.
If it were not so, Siva would not have needed to manifest as Arunachala or as Sri Ramana. The Grace of Bhagavan radiates from Arunachala and from his shrine there no less than it did from his bodily form. People are often drawn there as they feel their doubts and questions melting away and their wishes dissolved in love. Often enough the Grace poured out upon them affects their circumstances in life also and the inner harmony is reflected outwardly, but to go there for that purpose is to reject the greater good for the lesser. It is in that sense that Arunachala is wish-fulfilling and that it is better not to ask.
Chapter Seven: Ramana Sad Guru
There are , moreover, positive indications that the guidance still exists.
When asked once whether a jivan mukta continues to perform any function after physical death, Bhagavan replied that in some cases it is so.
When his physical death was imminent and devotees complained that he was leaving them without guidance, he replied: "You attach too much importance to the body," indicating thereby that his discarding it would not put an end to their guidance.
In reply to a question by Dr. Masalavala, retired Medical Officer of Bhopal State, Bhagavan replied, as recorded by Devaraja Mudaliar in 'Day by Day with Bhagavan': "Guru is not the physical form, so the contact will continue even after the physical form of the Guru vanishes."
His devotees know that he is still the Guru. They have felt the continuance of a guidance not only as potent but as subtle and detailed as before. For those who seek to turn to him it is best to say as he did to those who questioned the heart centre of which he spoke - that it is not discussion that is needed but trial. Let them invoke his Grace and strive in the way he prescribed and they will find out for themselves whether the Grace and guidance of the Guru are forthcoming.
The silent meditation and the morning and evening chanting of the Vedas continue before the Samadhi of Bhagavan as they did in his body presence. Now as then, access is for all, whatever their caste or religion. The spiritual support that comes in sitting before the Samadhi is not only as strong but as sweet and subtle as it was before the bodily presence.
To all those who turn to Bhagavan in their hearts the response is even more immediate, the support more powerful. Not only that (for that is true wherever they may be) but the spiritual revitalisation that they used to derive from a visit to Tiruvannamalai still continues, even though the beloved face is hidden.