Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam
By Suri Nagamma - Translated from Telugu by D. S. Sastry
It gives us great pleasure in introducing to the devotees of Sri Bhagavan, 31 'Letters from Sri Ramanasramam' by Suri Nagamma (originally, Lekalu in Telugu) which were held back when the English translation was printed. We are sure these will be welcomed by the reading public who have derived pleasure and benefit from the Letters from Sri Ramanasramam.
We are also printing with these, the Recollections of Suri Nagamma, translated from Sri Ramanasramam Smrutulu, from original Telugu. Sri D. S. Sastri has rendered great service to the devotees by translating the text from Telugu to English.
Sri Ramanasramam, 12.12.1978
T. N. Venkataraman, President, Board of Trustees.
Letters From Sri Ramanasramam
18. Kindness to Animals
One afternoon in 1946, at 2 pm some savouries prepared in the Asramam were distributed amongst the devotees. A few of them were given to Bhagavan also. Bhagavan ate them, drank some water, went out and came back, when some monkeys came to the window near his sofa. Seeing them, Bhagavan asked his attendants to go and bring some of the savoury preparations, saying, that the monkeys would relish them very much. The attendants returned saying that the people in the kitchen refused saying that they had not prepared enough savouries to feed the monkeys also. "Oho! How did we get them then?'' said Bhagavan. "This is ration time,'' said a devotee. "What if it is ration time? When we have rations, why should they (monkeys) not have rations as well? The problem will be solved if a ration card is obtained for the monkeys as well. They also eat these things with greater relish than we. If they do not have it, why should we have it either? When we are eating, see how those children (i.e., the monkeys) are looking at us,'' said Bhagavan. Thereupon, they also got their share.
From that time onwards, Bhagavan used to accept things only after the monkeys' share were given to them. It seems there was a practice before of taking out their share first before anything was distributed. The change that had come about in the interim period disappeared with this reprimand from Bhagavan. In the past, on festive occasions like Jayanti and Mahapuja, Bhagavan used to see that some food was taken out separately, made into balls, placed in a basket and then taken into Palakothu where he used to sit and personally hand over the balls one by one with great joy to the monkeys. A photo was taken of this event at the time of Bhagavan's Shashtipurthi festivities in 1939. The radiance on Bhagavan's face at that time can be seen and appreciated if that photo is looked at.
You know what happened one morning in 1946? Squirrels came on to Bhagavan's sofa for cashew nuts. The nuts, which used to be in the tin near Bhagavan, were exhausted. Groundnuts were given instead. The squirrels would not eat them and began to express their discontent in all possible ways. "We don't have them, my dears. What to do?'' said Bhagavan, and tried to cajole them. No. They would not be appeased.
They were crawling over the legs and hands of Bhagavan continuously as a sign of their displeasure. So Bhagavan asked Krishnaswami to go and find out if there was any stock of cashewnuts in the store-room. Krishnaswami went and brought a few nuts. "Is that all?'' asked Bhagavan. Krishnaswami said they were preparing payasam that night and so they could spare only that much. Bhagavan felt annoyed and said, "I see. Payasam will not be less tasteful if the cashewnuts are a little less in quantity than usual. What a pity. These squirrels do not like anything less and they are worrying me. The storekeepers have declined to give cashew nuts saying that they will have to put them into the payasam. Who will be worried if there are no cashew nuts in the payasam? See how these children are worrying themselves for want of cashew nuts?'' With that, the cashew nuts which should have gone into payasam, went into the stomachs of the squirrels and also into the tin by his side (for future feeding of the squirrels).
The same evening Dr. Ananthanarayana Rao brought from Madras, 2 visa of cashew nuts, saying that he had brought them for the squirrels. With a smile, Bhagavan said addressing Krishnaswami, "Look at this. They are earning whatever they want. There is no need to beg of you. These cashew nuts are their property. Keep them carefully. Note that they should not be given to the store room. Take care.''
One morning in January 1947, at about 9 A.M., Lakshmi, the cow, entered the hall hurriedly with her legs, body and tail full of mud, with blood oozing out of her nose and with a half-severed rope round her neck. She went straight to the sofa where Bhagavan sat. The attendants began saying with some disgust that she had come in with mud on her body. Bhagavan, however, said with affection, "Let her come. Let her come. What does it matter how she comes?'' Addressing the cow, he said, "Come, my dear, Please come near.'' So saying he passed his hand over the body lightly, patted her on the neck and looking at the face and said, "What is this? Some blood oozing!'' One of the attendants said, "Recently they had put a rope through her nose.''
"Oho! Is that the reason? That is why she has come here to complain to me about it. Is it not very painful for her? Unable to bear the pain, she has come here running to complain to me without even washing her body. What to do? Give her some iddly or something,'' said Bhagavan, evincing great solicitude for her welfare. The attendants gave her some plantains and thus managed to send her out. I went to the kitchen, brought some iddlies and gave them to her. She was satisfied and went away to her usual place.
After all of us returned to the hall and sat down, Bhagavan remarked, looking at the attendants, "Do not all of you come to me to relate your troubles? She too has done the same thing. Why then you are vexed with her for coming here with mud on her? When we have troubles, do we consider whether our clothes are all right or our hair is properly brushed?''
There is no need to mention the love and affection Bhagavan has towards the peacocks. Not only is he specially considerate towards mild animals like these; he is equally considerate towards beings like snakes which are also given shelter in the Asramam. Not only is this mentioned in his biography but we ourselves have now and then witnessed it here. I have already written to you earlier about the tiger cubs. Recently an incident happened here about snakes.
As the opening ceremony of the Pathala Linga Temple was fixed for the 4th instant and as several visitors were expected at the Asramam on that account and especially the Governor and his wife, it was felt that the available space would not be sufficient and so, a pandal was put up to the right side of Bhagavan's sofa in the Jubilee Hall to accommodate them. A week earlier, i.e., towards the end of April, Krishnaswami arranged that the pandal should be used for Veda parayana and also for the ladies to sit under. It is after all a new erection; and on all its sides crotons were placed, khus-khus thatties were tied and water was sprinkled regularly. Hence the place remained comparatively cool. Some four days after the pandal was erected I happened to go there in the afternoon a little earlier than usual. Bhagavan had just gone out and come back. There was nobody near him. I prostrated before him and then sat down under the pandal. A big green snake came through an opening between the crotons on the side of Bhagavan's sofa, glided along some distance, got up on to the roof of the pandal and settled down comfortably there. I was not frightened in any way and so kept quiet looking at the snake and at Bhagavan. He noticed my feelings and said with a smile, "He has come here because it is cool,'' I said, "Since how long could he have been here?'' Bhagavan replied, "He came here about the same time as I returned here after my mid-day meal. He has been going around the pandal and also the crotons. He has been coming here like this for the last three days and going away around 2.30 pm.''
I said, "He must be a great soul. He must have come here in this shape to serve Bhagavan when he is alone.'' As I was saying this, Krishnaswami came in.
Krishnaswami: "I do not know what to do. He is coming here every day. Bhagavan says he should not chase him away.''
Bhagavan: "What if he comes? What harm has he done to us?''
Krishnaswami: "He has not done anything to us. But this is a place to which several people come. Is it not risky?''
Bhagavan: "But he goes away at 2.30 pm, doesn't he?''
Krishnaswami: "It is all right now. But during festival days people come in at all times.''
Bhagavan: "Oho! That is your fear!'' So saying, Bhagavan looked at the snake and at me. I too began looking at the snake and at Bhagavan, and, I said, "He must have come here to serve Bhagavan. But if he comes with this cover (meaning the body), there is likely to be some trouble to him from the people in general and from him to the general public.''
Bhagavan: "It might be so.''
Bhagavan thereupon looked at the snake for a while, steadfastly and graciously. Immediately after that the snake, which was remaining still all the time we were discussing, got down the pandal rapidly, went into the flower garden and disappeared. There was no knowing what message he received when Bhagavan gazed at him. The clock struck the half-hour. Devotees began coming in rows and prostrated before Bhagavan. Bhagavan's look thus got diverted and he came back to his normal state. The snake was never seen afterwards.
There are ever so many incidents to show that Bhagavan's abode is a place of safe resort not only for the weaker sex and the poor but also for dumb animals at all times. I shall write to you in another letter some more incidents of this nature.
21. Deceptive Appearances
One afternoon in 1944, when devotees were conversing about sundry matters in Bhagavan's presence, the topic of deceptive appearances and talks came up for discussion. Addressing Bhagavan, a devotee said, "Some people put on all sorts of false appearances to deceive the world.''
Bhagavan said, "Yes. Not some, but many. What of that? If people put on false appearances, it is their own minds that get troubled ultimately. They begin to be afraid of what others would think of them and so their minds become their own enemies. If people think of deceiving others by putting on false appearances they themselves get deceived ultimately. They think, 'We have planned and have deceived others and thereby have shown great cleverness.' With pride they practise more and more deceptions. The consequences of their actions will be realised only when the deceptions are discovered. When the time comes, they will collapse as a result of their own deceits.''
While all were wondering whom Bhagavan had in mind, Rama Yogi said, "Swami, this reminds me of an incident. I remember to have read somewhere that Bhagavan had once put on Panganamam (distinctive caste mark of a Vaishnavaite). Is it true?''
Bhagavan replied as follows: "Yes. That was during the early days of my life on the hill. At that time some Vaishnavaites used to come to me, and at their pressing request I used to put on the namam, having nothing to lose thereby. Not only that. Do you know what I did once?
Those were the days when a Kalyana Mandapam was constructed in Arunachaleswara temple. It was Navaratri time (Dasara Festival). A bhajana troupe had arranged in the temple a display of dolls for worship. They pressed me to go with them to see the display. As I was afraid that somebody might recognize me and start doing all sort of services, I put on a dhoti of Palaniswami and covered my body with another cloth, put on a namam like a Vaishnavaite and went with them. The administrators of the temple knew me well. I wanted to avoid them. They however, recognized me at the gate itself, and came after me saying, 'Swami! Swami! You also have come here to see the Swami? You yourself are a Swami, aren't you?' What to do? I felt I was deceiving myself. I somehow managed to evade them and get inside but I felt that everyone was looking at me only. I did not see the Mandapam nor could I see anything else. I turned back intending to return home unnoticed but the chief amongst the Archakas caught me again at the gate. "Swami! Swami! You have come in this dress? Aha! How nice it is, Swami! Please wait.'' So saying he stopped me; and addressing his assistants, he said, 'You fellow! Bring a garland of flowers. Bring sandal paste. Bring prasadam. Our Brahmanaswami has come here putting on the dress of Lord Sri Krishna. It is our great luck.' So saying, they began to shower temple honours on me. I somehow managed to escape their attentions and went away. Later on, I tried a number of times to hoodwink them and somehow go to the temple but invariably they used to recognise me and give me all the temple honours. Thereupon I gave up all further attempts and stopped going to the temple altogether. It is the same with everything. You can stay anywhere without fear, if you are in your real form. If you put on a dress to deceive others, you will be afraid every minute that someone might catch you at your deception and so your mind becomes your own enemy and troubles you,'' said Bhagavan.
Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam
4. How fortunate is this Sabari!
Sometime in 1946, S. Doraiswamy Iyer came to the Ashram. He was a very successful lawyer practising in Madras, earned a lot of money, gave up practice, donated all the money to the Aravindasram, and lived there as an Ashramite. Off and on, he used to come to Ramanasramam. Once it so happened I was copying in a note book various stotras in Telugu in praise of Bhagavan, when Doraiswamy came into the hall and sat there. He saw how Bhagavan was calling me now and then and giving me instructions about copying the stotras and others in Telugu. Doraiswamy appears to have observed the paternal affection with which Bhagavan was calling me and so when Bhagavan left the hall and when I too was about to leave soon after, he came directly behind me unobserved and began singing the famous Thyagaraja kirtan: "How fortunate is Sabari? How fortunate is Sabari!'' Startled at the unexpected singing right behind my back, I turned round and found him looking at me smiling. I asked him why he was singing like that. Pointing his hand towards me he said, "Yes, Amma; I am saying how fortunate is this Sabari! Bhagavan does not speak to us even once though we ask him all sorts of questions. In your case Bhagavan himself asks for you saying, 'Where is Nagamma?' and speaks to you every now and then. How luck you are!'' I naturally felt very much elated at that.
In 1954 I shifted my permanent residence from the Ashram to Andhra Pradesh and was coming to the Ashram once or twice a year for a few month's stay. On one such occasion, perhaps in 1957, I remained in Bhagavan's hall a little longer than usual and with all thoughts of Bhagavan crowding in on my mind, was going out when all of a sudden I heard a voice from behind similar to Bhagavan's calling "Where is Nagamma?'' (Nagamma yedhi?). Startled at that, I looked behind and found Devaraja Mudaliar smiling at me. Noticing the tears that had welled up in my eyes, he said, "Bhagavan used to call you like that, didn't he?'' What you have said is perfectly correct. For a fleeting moment I felt it was Bhagavan himself that was calling me. What a delusion! Be it as it may, I have heard those soothing words once again at least through your mouth. What a good day for me! It was only after hearing those words from Bhagavan that Doraiswamy Iyer sang the song 'How fortunate is this Sabari!' Those good days are gone never to return,'' I said. Mudaliar also felt likewise, and share with me my regrets, being a fellow devotee.