2. 1998 Calendars available
3. Several Paths
4. The Journey of My Heart, Part 2
5. August 31st Advent Celebration in New York City
6. 25th Anniversary of Arunachala Ashrama Nova Scotia, Canada
7. 1997 Visitors to Arunachala Ashrama in Nova Scotia
An Early Devotee of the Master
M. G. Shanmugam, one of the early devotees of Sri Bhagavan, was so modest that he always refused to be drawn into the limelight. His Tamil biography of Bhagavan concluded with the early days at the present Ashrama, that is, with the 1930s. It is a pity he did not complete it, because Bhagavan had mentioned to others that he liked it. Fortunately M.G. Shanmugam left a few notes in Tamil on Bhagavan, his teachings and his own observations on spiritual sadhana. The following excerpts have been culled from these notes.
DURING my twenty-four years of personal association with Bhagavan I have noted that He seldom preached elaborately. He would give hints which keen seekers had to absorb carefully and follow faithfully in their sadhana. By close observation of Him and His actions and from His occasional words and terse expressions, one could definitely learn and properly follow His teachings.
He once said categorically, "For practicing Atma vichara every day is auspicious and every moment is good - no discipline is prescribed at all. Any time, anywhere it can be done, even without others noticing that you are doing it. All other sadhanas require external objects and a congenial environment, but for Atma vichara nothing external to oneself is required. Turning the mind within is all that is necessary. While one is engaged in Atma vichara one can with ease attend to other activities also. Besides, Atma vichara being a purely internal movement, one does not also distract others who are around; whereas, in sadhanas like puja, others do notice you. One-pointed perseverance alone is essential in Self-enquiry and that is done purely inwardly, all the time. Your attention on the Self within alone is essential." Some of Bhagavan's personal instructions to me:
(i) If you observe the breathing one-pointedly, such attention will lead you spontaneously into kumbhaka (retention) - this is jnana pranayama.
(ii) The more you humble yourself, the better it is for you, in all ways.
(iii) By withdrawing the mind within, you can live anywhere and under any circumstances.
(iv) You should look upon the world only as a dream.
(v) Do not allow your mind to be distracted by objective things and by thoughts. Except attending to your allotted duty-work in life, the rest of your time should be spent in Atma-nishta (Self-abidance); do not waste even a second in inattention, lethargy.
(vi) Do not cause even the slightest hindrance or disturbance to others. Also, do all your work yourself.
(vii) Both likes and dislikes should be equally discarded and eschewed.
(viii) With attention focused on the first person and on the Heart within, one should relentlessly practice Who am I? When this is done one-pointedly, one's breathing will subside of itself. During such controlled practice, the mind might suddenly spring up; so you have to vigilantly pursue the vichara, Who am I?
To remain silent without thoughts is the Whole;
To remain without thoughts is Nishta;
To remain without thoughts is Jnana;
To remain without thoughts is Moksha;
To remain without thoughts is Sahaja.
Therefore, the state without any trace of thoughts is the Final State of Fullness, indeed!
From M.G. Shanmugam's personal diary (in Tamil) the following interesting anecdotes are gathered:
When we were living at Darapuram and I was seven years old, I was initiated into Linga puja. Such traditional upbringing gradually involved me in the study of the Sastras, doing japa, bhajan, saguna and nirguna dhyana and regular puja three times a day. During this period I also had three gurus. I came to the conviction that the highest human attainment was the state of Jivanmukti. I was then at Tiruchengode (1921-1925) studying in college. When I was 18 years old, I fervently prayed that I should meet a Jivanmukta and receive his blessings.
My prayers were soon answered! My father, a police officer, was transferred to Tiruvannamalai. I came to know of Bhagavan Ramana living there. I gave up my studies and rushed to Arunachala. At Katpadi, while travelling in the train towards Tiruvannamalai, I had a remarkable vision of Bhagavan. Thus my Sadguru came to me and absorbed me even before l could have His physical darshan!
When I arrived at the Ashrama, Bhagavan gave me a warm welcome with a benign smile. As He was seeing me for the first time, His two spontaneous utterances surprised me. Like an affectionate mother, He asked me, "When did you come?" and "How is your right hand?" My right hand was badly fractured when I was 14-years-old and though it healed up the hand remained bent and short. I used to cover it up with full sleeves and even my friends did not know of this serious deformity. How did Bhagavan know about it? And what affectionate concern He showed! After Bhagavan inquired about it, my sense of inferiority because of the defect totally disappeared. More than all this, He asked me to be seated in front of Him. Gazing at Him I sat down and I do not know what happened to me then. When I got up two hours had elapsed. This was an experience I had never had before and I have always cherished it as the first and foremost prasad and blessing received from my Sadguru. That day I understood the purport of the statement, "The Sadguru ever gives unasked!" That moment I knew I had been accepted into His Fold. This strong bond He allowed me to enjoy until His Mahasamadhi, and even after.
Daily I would go to him by two in the afternoon and return home only at 8 p.m. My father, who was a staunch devotee, was instrumental in constructing, in a remarkably short time, the Old Hall where Bhagavan was to stay for more than twenty years. Bhagavan would quote from Ribhu Gita, Kaivalya Navaneetam, Jnana Vasishta and other Advaitic texts and explain to me their greatness. All the while I was aware I was in the blissful presence of a Brahmajnani, so highly extolled in all our scriptures.
He was a sarvajna (all-knower). I got many proofs of it, though I never demanded them. Daily pocket-money of three annas was given to me by my father. I bought for that amount sambrani (incense) which was burnt in the presence of Bhagavan. One day I did not get the three annas, so I could not buy the sambrani. I Therefore refrained from going to Bhagavan that day. The next day when I went, Bhagavan graciously remarked: "Yesterday you did not come because you could not get sambrani. Veneration in the heart is enough."
"My father was suddenly transferred to Vellore. None of us, particularly myself, wanted to leave Tiruvannamalai since darshan of Bhagavan would then be denied. We ventilated our grievance to Bhagavan. He gave me a benign smile. A few days after, strangely, the transfer order was cancelled!
Apart from the greatness of Bhagavan's Presence and the tremendous power of His silence, I noticed the strange way the doubts in one's mind got answered through someone else present in the Hall. The doubt you had, somebody in the Hall would express to Bhagavan and Bhagavan would not only give the answer but look at you with a smile, as if to say, 'Has your doubt been cleared?'Bhagavan would be seated like a rock with eyes open for hours together and silence would pervade the Hall. Everyone's heart would be filled with peace and stillness. This silence was His real teaching!
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Several paths are taught in the Vedas to suit the different grades of qualified aspirants. Yet, since release is simply the destruction of mind, all efforts have control of the mind as their aim. Although the modes of meditation may appear to be different from one another, in the end all of them become one. There is no need to doubt this. One may adopt that path which suits the maturity of one's mind.
The Journey of My Heart
Passages from the Diary of a Pilgrim to Sri Ramanasramam
December 14, 1982: This evening Ganesan took Paul and me to meet Sri Balarama Reddiar. He spoke of the beauty of a mother's selfless love. He told us, "For spiritual life, infinite patience is needed - not just for one lifetime but for many lifetimes.... The sense of time should disappear."
December 16, 1982: This morning I departed for pradakshina at 5:15 a.m., well before dawn. However, I soon discovered hundreds of people had the same idea, for it is the first day of the new Tamil month. I felt as one with the stream of women dressed in their most festive saris and men in their fresh dhotis. Many women appeared to walk the entire eight miles with a child in their arms! In the dark before dawn, the temples and lingams were lit up with images bedecked with flowers, turmeric, etc. The faces of the villagers, filled with faith as they gazed upon the images, impressed themselves on my heart. Dawn broke on the dirt road to Adi Annamalai. In the tiny rural hamlet fresh rangoullis (white-powder designs) were at each door, and at the center the women had placed bouquets of fresh, bright yellow flowers, resembling daffodils. Naturally, the recitation of Mother's Names (Sri Lalita Sahasranam) formed the background from which I viewed all these charming sights. The cup of tea I stopped to have at Adi Annamalai tasted like the sweetest nectar. During this pradakshina I went round almost all the Siva Lingams.
Returning, I found Ramaswami Pillai sitting outside in the sun. I took him some homeopathic pills for his congestion which he accepted like a meek child, and sat with him for awhile. He inquired about my parents' occupations and the size of our family; whether I lived in a house or apartment; whether I was married. When I told him I was single, he said, "It is all right. When a person is unmarried he remains fresh. After marriage reality takes over, imagination is absent. Then, the partner becomes a possession, a part of one's self. Also, there may be fear of losing the person - though not in Hinduism, especially among Brahmins. Yet, tastes change. When a person is a child he may want a tricycle, then a bicycle. Later, that will have no meaning and he'll want a motorcycle. So it is with the mind."
Ramaswami went on to speak of the beauty of selfless love which springs from a pure and one-pointed mind: "In its pure state the Self is indivisible, it cannot be split. You see, Sri Bhagavan's teachings is completely separate from religion. In religion there is still ego - 'I am a Hindu'. For Westerners, they need not become Hindus. Within their own religion, in the context of their own society, they may practice it. In reality, Sri Bhagavan's teachings is not religious - it is more scientific than religious. Religion is not required to turn the mind back on itself."
He also spoke about attachment, especially the strong attachment of a child to its mother. As a boy, Ramaswami's strong attachment to his mother prevented him from dying and taking another birth: When he had become very sick the thought of his mother helped him survive. "Even great saints may ultimately have to serve their parents," he commented.
He spoke at length on the uniqueness of Sri Bhagavan's teachings and about how, once a person is established in the Self, sacrifice is no longer painful but becomes a great pleasure. Then he said, "I think I'm exhausted - not physically tired - but my supply has run out." He joined his palms and as I saluted him he gently chanted, "Om, Om, Om." I took his leave.
December 18. 1982: In Ganeshan's room at 5:00 a.m. I had found Kunju Swami sitting on a folding chair. With a broad smile he motioned me to take the chair beside him. Ganeshan finished his ablutions and we three took off, going round behind the shrine for the path leading out to Palakothu. Walking beside Kunju Swami I began to feel lighthearted as a child. His very presence uplifted us.
We followed a path quite near to the base of the mountain, obviously familiar to Kunju Swami as one taken with Bhagavan. The tall trees gave way to low lying bushes and thorns and a panoramic view of Sri Arunachala in its majesty opened up before us. We talked while walking.
Kunju Swami expressed concern that I had not worn sandals.
"I need all the merit that I can get!"
"Then you are a true dacoit!" he replied.
Ganeshan explained that Kunju Swami uses the term "dacoit" especially with reference to devotees of Arunachala Ashrama who, coming for short periods of time, plunder all of the wealth of Sri Bhagavan and Sri Arunachala, and then take it home with them.
I said that I was thinking of extending my stay, although I had my work to return to in New York.
Kunju Swami said in an ecstatic mood, that during Sri Bhagavan's time some with exceptional devotion, living away from Tiruvannamalai, would begin to find excuses to extend their stay. In such cases, Bhagavan would send Kunju Swami with the devotee to the station to make sure he got on the train.
"Sri Bhagavan was particular that women going on pradakshina should be accompanied," Kunju Swami said. But rather than say, "Don't go alone," he would ask, "Who is accompanying you?" After the woman had left he would ask, "Who went with her?"
We passed the spot where only the foundation of S. S. Cohen's home in Palakothu remains, and Kunju Swami described how Cohen would cook some rice and vegetables in the early morning and then go to Bhagavan. Half he would take at noon and the other half at dinner. In the afternoon Bhagavan would walk about Palakothu and inquire about everyone's welfare like a father. All would be delighted at his solicitude and personal care for them.
One day Bhagavan asked Cohen what he had eaten. "Oh, nothing much, Bhagavan, a little rice and vegetable," he replied like a poor man. "Rice and vegetable! How fortunate!" was Bhagavan's rejoinder. "When we were on the hill we had only rice, sometimes even without salt, and now you are eating like a king!" In this way Bhagavan would encourage and console them.During his walks to Palakothu, Bhagavan would sit on Cohen's stone verandah. Cohen began to feel bad that Bhagavan had to sit on the hard stone. One day he put out a chair and Bhagavan never returned. So considerate to all, he never wished to cause inconvenience or to receive special attention. Cohen lamented this as his life's greatest mistake.
(continued in the Jan/Feb 1998 issue)
August 31st Celebration in New York City
BHAGAVAN Sri Ramana Maharshi's anniversary of his 101st Advent at Arunachala Day and the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Sri Arunachala Ashrama in Nova Scotia, Canada, was celebrated with joy and gratitude in a warm and intimate gathering of devotees at Sri Arunachala Ashrama on Clyde St. in Rego Park, New York City on Sunday, August 31st at 11a.m.
The gathering began with the ecstatic strains of Sri Arunachala Aksara Mana Malai. Lord Ganesha was invoked with Sanskrit slokas. Next, the Ashrama children offered flowers at the statue and photo of Bhagavan as his l08 Names were intoned in English and Sanskrit. Bhaskar Singh extended a warm welcome to all present and paid touching tribute to the vision and daily sacrifice of his father, Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat. P.E. Narasimhan read out the inspirational talk of Dennis Hartel which covered the history of the Nova Scotia Ashrama and affirmed his faith that the teaching and life of Sri Bhagavan would, indeed, become known to increasing numbers of devotees. Virat Bhatt reviewed the story of Sri Bhagavan's journey to Sri Arunachala. Indira Narasimhan offered inspiring classical bhajans. The celebration closed with the chanting of "Na Karmana..." and traditional arati. According to custom, a sumptuous feast was served to all present.What an unspeakable blessing it has been for many of us, day by day, to imbibe the grace of Sri Bhagavan's personal guidance and his sublime and potent silence which stills the mind and makes all things possible. Looking back, the twenty-five years which have passed seem a mere moment! And what a blessing it has been during the times that we could not travel to India to be able to immerse ourselves in the silence, the teaching and the sense of Sri Bhagavan's all-pervading presence in the serene atmosphere of the Nova Scotia Ashrama. Dear Bhagavan, grant us the grace to continue in Thy remembrance until the vision of this world vanishes-this is our humble prayer!
25th Anniversary of Arunachala Ashrama
Nova Scotia, Canada
ON Sunday, August 31, Arunachala Ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi Center in Nova Scotia, Canada observed its 25th anniversary.
The temple, Sri Arunachala Ramana Mandiram, was full to capacity as devotees traveled from the U. S. and different parts of Canada to assist in the preparations and join the activities scheduled for that day. Vegetables from the Ashrama garden were harvested and many lady devotees tirelessly prepared dishes to serve guests. Even to mention the names of all the selfless workers would not adequately recognize the rare virtues of kindness, generosity, devotion, cheerfulness and humility demonstrated on that day. Bhagavan alone can, and will, vouchsafe to them their well-deserved rewards.
Srimati Susila Ramanan, the wife of the president of Sri Ramanasramam, kindly accepted our invitation, flew from Detroit and participated in the function. With her versatile voice she engaged the rapt attention of all the devotees by singing the Tamil songs of Saranagati Ramaswami. His song "Saranagati" has long since become a classic among the devotees of Sri Maharshi.
Bhajans, talks and pujas were followed by prasad (a full meal) served to all the guests and devotees. A special photo of the Master was printed to mark this occasion and it was distributed free to all the devotees that day. Altogether, 1,000 of these prints were sent complimentary to devotees around the world.
The following talk given by Dennis Hartel. He has been a member of the Nova Scotia Ashrama since its inception twenty-five years ago.
"Today we are observing the 25th Anniversary of Arunachala Ashrama in Nova Scotia, and to understand this Ashrama in a larger context I would like to describe to you something of its origin, its ideals and ultimate purpose in today's society.
"Although Arunachala Ashrama is dedicated to Sri Ramana Maharshi who shed his body in 1950, its actual origin precedes his birth and extends far into antiquity. This Ashrama represents the ideals and thoughts expressed in the words and actions of numerous saints, mystics, sages and great spiritual personalities who lived on every continent of this earth down through the ages. It has been our constant endeavor to stir up these same pure aspirations in our own hearts, to actually live them and experience their fulfillment. "And to my mind, in this 20th Century, there has been no greater manifestation of all these qualities than in the life and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. That is, no doubt, the reason I have dedicated my life to His Ashrama here in the West.
"Following the events leading to the founding of this Ashrama, we travel back in time to 1941, and shift our attention from the rolling hills and quiet pastures of the Annapolis Valley to the distant hill station of Darjeeling in the Himalayan Mountains.
"It was here that Bhagawat Prasad Singh, while working as a teacher and principal of the Himachala Hindi Bhavan School, first glimpsed a photograph of Sri Ramana Maharshi and read about his life and teachings. Right then he knew that the Maharshi was his Guru and wished to fly off for Tiruvannamalai to sit at his feet. But circumstances dictated otherwise. Nevertheless, Bhagawat had always believed that that person would be his Guru with whom he never had to voice a single question, and whose very presence and grace could be experienced from wherever he lived. He discovered these qualities manifested in Sri Ramana Maharshi. Even now, fifty-six years later, Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat, as he later became known, never tires of expressing the peace and bliss that inundates his heart by the simple remembrance of the Sage of Arunachala. Due to his advanced age - he is now 85 - and weakness he is sorry that he is unable to travel up here to participate in today's program.
"In 1947, just after the independence of India, Bhagawat traveled to America for graduate studies. He studied and worked in the U. S. for about ten years, returned to India for 18 months, and when visiting Sri Ramanasramam in 1960, was encouraged by Arthur Osborne to hold meetings in Sri Ramana's name when he returned to America. From these meetings that began in New York City in 1961, Arunachala Ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi Center was founded.
"By the late 1960s, Bhagawat was inspired to open an Ashrama where serious sadhakas could practice the teachings of the Maharshi in a quiet, country setting. Out of that inspiration this Ashrama was founded in 1972. Of course, there is a lengthy story as to how we came all the way up here from New York (for that story see the MAHARSHI, Vol. 7, No. 4). But now I would like to move on to what I foresee for the future of this Ashrama.
"To begin with, it is important to understand what exactly is Sri Ramana Maharshi's place in a historical sense, or his actual place in the spiritual heritage of mankind. Genuineness, or a thing of true and lasting value, must not only withstand the test of time, it also must enable individuals from every generation to irrevocably prove its inherent worth. It has only been about 50 years since the Maharshi shed his mortal frame. Obviously, we do not see millions lining up to view his tomb. We do not read about his life and teachings in the newspapers here, or see his image broadcast across the multimedia of our day. Does that mean that his contribution to mankind has been forgotten?
"No, it hasn't. The truth is that the mainstream of the present-day society may never know anything of Sri Ramana Maharshi. They also may never stop to question "What is death?" "Does life have an ultimate meaning and purpose?" "What is the greatest good and what is the greatest happiness?"and "Who am I?" The vast majority of people will never investigate these matters deeply. But for those who sincerely do, the life and teachings of the Sage of Arunachala will shine forth like the effulgent rising sun after the long dark night of sadness and confusion.
"In dedicating the last 25 years of my life to serving those seeking to know more about the life and teachings of the Maharshi, I clearly see that almost fifty years after His passing, Sri Ramana's influence is steadily growing throughout the world. Centers dedicated to him have sprung up in India and in many other countries on every continent. I daily receive mail, telephone calls and E-mail from inquirers from all corners of the globe. As more and more aspirants come to experience the efficacy of his teachings and the power of his grace, I have no doubt that a hundred years from now vast numbers of spiritual aspirants from all countries and all religions will come to know, love and respect the unique qualities found in the silent Sage of Arunachala.
"The Maharshi left for us a very direct path to experience the ultimate spiritual Truth. He did not start a new religion but emphasized the essential truth in all religions. He never desired that seekers should change their religion or give up whatever spiritual practice they may be doing. He simply wanted all of us to look deeply within ourselves and discover the essence of our being. From his experience he knew that if once this is found unalloyed happiness, universal vision and all goodness would follow.
"Similarly, we here at Arunachala Ashrama desire that everyone only look deeper into themselves to understand the simple unity underlying each one of us. It is this message of unity and the experience of our Eternal Essence, the Divine Self, that has for 25 years sustained and nourished Sri Ramana Maharshi's Ashrama here in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia, Canada.
"When the Sage was born in 1879-and by coincidence, it is the same year this temple building was built - his mother was attended to by a blind midwife. It was said that just at the moment of delivery this blind lady saw a dazzling light flash before her. No one else saw it. How could it be seen by others, it was not a physical light?"Similarly, the Maharshi's light today is not physical. It is an inner light. It is the light of Pure Awareness that illumines our consciousness when we still the restless mind and allow it to sink effortlessly into the Heart. There, in the peace and joy of Pure Awareness, all differences cease to exist, all religions become one, all existence unite in the simple but Supreme joy of Self-awareness. To live in this state is real life. To ignore its quiet, consistent tapping at our door of awareness is death. This is the Maharshi's message to us. And as I have lived all these years in His Ashrama as his simple-minded servant, with my sincere warmth and affection, I am passing it on to you. Thank you."
1997 Visitors to Arunachala Ashrama in Nova Scotia
During the last 25 years many guests have come, especially during the summer months, and spent two days to two months living in the Ashrama and participating in its activities. Below is a list of visitors for 1997. It does not include visitors who visited only for a day. Also, a good number of the guests listed below visited more than once.
Mrs. Dorothy Hartel, Tonawanda, NY
Sri V. S. Ramanan, President, Sri Ramanasramam, India
Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawat, Founder of Arunachala Ashrama, NYC
Geeta Bhatt, NYC
Dr. Eric Ford, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Chris Meagher, NYC
Sushila & Yashwant Rai, Halifax, N.S.
Joe Beninati, Quebec
Dr. S. Raman, Madras, India
Arnold Frogel, NYC
Galina Heifetz, NYC
Tara Dean, Hawaii
Jim & Fran Hartel, Franklin, NY
Dr. Prakash, Mamtha, Tara & Athman Adiseshan, Ann Arbor, MI
Don & Cynthia, Rumford, ME
Michael Fahey, Truro, N.S.
Mohan Fernando, Halifax, N. S.
Arthur M. Coucouvitis, Manchester, NH
Duart McClean, Quebec
Lyse Lebeau, Quebec
Devraj Shyampur, Toronto
Bhaskar, Hena, Saraswati, Parvati, Ram & Lakshmi Singh, NYC
Eileen & Mac Wells, Long Island, NY
Kelly Harrison, Halifax, N. S.
Fabin MacDonald, Antigonish, N. S.
John & Bonnie Osher, Moreland Hill, OH
Prof. Kate Brooks, United Arab Emirates
Paul & Evelyn Saphier, NYC
Dr. T., Imayam & Mekalai Kumanan, Sackville, N. S.
Rathai, Rathika & Rathisha Thillamathan, London, England
Ashok, Eva, Maya & Ganesha Thirumurthi, Waterloo, Ontario
Dr. Dan & Latha Thirumurthi, Halifax, N. S.
Virat, Srimati Indira, Henaz & Chancy Bhatt, Parlin, NJ
Harvey & Kit Schneider, NYC
Dave, Janet & Areille Rubinson, Coral Springs, FL
Muriel Leibowitz, Cooper City, FL
Mr. B. K. & Lakshmi Raju, Halifax, N. S.
Mohan, Savithri & Radha Ramaswami, NYC
Mr. & Mrs. M. S. Sethi & Toni Sethi, NYC
Dr. T. R. Krishnan, St. John's, Newfoundland
Dr. J. S. S. Lakshminarayana, Moncton, New Brunswick
Ruth Kelly, Truro, N. S.
Dr. Wally Shishkov, Guelf, Ontario
Srimati Susila Ramanan, Sri Ramanasramam, India
Dr. Sathya Prasad Mangalaramanan, Brampton, Ontario
Swarna & Indra Weerasingh & children, Halifax, N. S.