2. The Journey of My Heart, Part 3
3. A Tribute from The Dalai Lama
4. Scientist Turned Vedantin
6. This is My Gift to You
7. Effective Practical Method
8. 118th Jayanti of Sri Ramana Maharshi
How I Came to the Maharshi
Normally, as soon as I place my head on the pillow I fall asleep. One night in February 1949 at Vellore, for no conscious reason, I could not sleep and kept tossing in bed. That was something very unusual. At 1 a.m. a telephone call came from Tiruvannamalai, a town fifty-five miles away, asking me to reach there by 8 a.m., as Bhagavan Ramana was very ill. Having received the call, I fell sound asleep.
I was the District Medical Officer of North Arcot then, and Tiruvannamalai was within my jurisdiction. I reached Tiruvannamalai without any emotion. My only thought was that I was on a professional mission of attending on a patient. The sainthood of Bhagavan Ramana had no significance for me.
I had conducted my examination of Bhagavan Ramana in a strictly professional manner. I carried no spiritual feelings for him, nor did he speak a word with me. But he had directed a momentary gaze of grace at me which kept stirring me deeply. Involuntarily, I felt a new vista of spiritual consciousness open out before me.
That wondrous gaze of Bhagavan seemed to envelop me with an aura of bliss. The spiritual pull from him felt so irresistible that after a few days I myself arranged a visit to Tiruvannamalai just for the sake of having his darshan. I took my wife with me.
We visited Bhagavan with a sense of curiosity and an indefinable sense of expectation. We made our obeisance and sat by his feet. We did not speak a word, nor did he speak. No speech seemed necessary. So surcharged with spirituality was he that his spirituality wafted out to us, completely enveloping us. Serenity seeped into us. Our minds attained a state of blissful, ecstatic meditation.
The tumour that Bhagavan was bearing must have given him the most excruciating, nerve-wracking pain. Such writhing pain would make the toughest man wince and moan. But Bhagavan's face was serene, smiling and radiant.
All of a sudden a disciple accidentally touched only the fringe of the thin bandage that was covering Bhagavan's tumour. Bhagavan gave an involuntary start. The disciple felt bewildered and mumbled, "Bhagavan, did I hurt you? It was only the fringe of the bandage that my hand touched." Bhagavan smiled his benign smile and softly said, "You do not know the enormous weight, as of a mountain, that this fringe bears!"
That chance exclamation of Bhagavan indicated the severity of his pain. But his godly face did not bear the slightest sign of his agony. It reflected only joy and peace. He seemed to have switched off his mind from the body to the divine.
The next occasion when I was summoned to Bhagavan's presence was when he had developed anuria. I now went to his Ashram not with the all-important feeling of a District Medical Officer going to visit his patient. I went in the spirit of a humble devotee going to serve a saint of colossal spiritual magnitude. My ministrations as a doctor were to be coupled with the devotion of a disciple. When I reached the Ashram I was told that for the past twenty-four hours Bhagavan had not taken any food, not even a drop of water; that the disciples' implorations in this behalf had failed; and that, in consequence, the entire community was feeling most anxious. I was entreated to persuade Bhagavan to eat something.
On examining Bhagavan I found that it was imperative that he should take some fluid. But what if he refused my request too? Ordering him in my capacity as a doctor seemed to be out of the question. I felt like asking him as a boon to accept my prayer. I prayed inwardly and held a glass of buttermilk before him.
He gazed at me for a second, took the buttermilk in shaking hands, and drank it. My joy knew no bounds. There were relief and jubilation all around. I was thanked profusely, but I felt infinitely grateful for Bhagavan's overwhelming grace. He had heard my silent prayer and granted my boon. Wonderful was the spiritual exhilaration I experienced in Bhagavan's holy presence.
The next time I was called to him was at midnight. When I entered his room, four disciples were there. Bhagavan was saying something to them in Tamil.
They told me that he was asking them to leave the room but that they wanted to stay as, according to them, he was in a delirium. I persuaded them to go.
Three of them went away. The fourth one stayed on. Bhagavan turned to him and whispered, "You are not going away because you feel that you love me more than the others!" The disciple now knew that Bhagavan was not delirious. He bowed and went.
I was left alone with Bhagavan. As usual, he did not speak with me. I was also silent. But the vibrations that emanated from him were celestial. His body must have been in terrific, mortal pain, but his heavenly spirituality was unaffected by it. A rapturous thrill electrified my entire being.
I administered to his body; but I was hardly conscious that I was a District Medical Officer. I was conscious only of an intense desire to worship this illumined soul. I had learned that Bhagavan did not allow devotees to touch his feet. But I felt a deep urge within me not only to touch his blessed feet but to press them lovingly. I took courage in both my hands and pressed them.
The wonder of wonders! Bhagavan let me do so! His grace was abounding. I considered myself in the seventh heaven. I glorify those few minutes of my life.
The next time I was summoned to him was about three hours after midnight. Pain must have been torturing his body. Still, he was sound asleep. Holy silence filled the room. It was the ambrosial hour of the dawn. I did not wish to disturb him. I sat quietly by his feet. Suddenly, he opened his eyes. His gracious gaze fell on me. He softly muttered, "D. M. O.!" The peculiar tone in which he mentioned me indicated that I had been in his sacred thoughts and that he was expecting me. I felt myself blessed. I silently worshipped him. My whole being seemed to vibrate with ecstasy.
At that time I had been feeling restless about a promotion to the rank of Major General (Surgeon General) which was legitimately due to me as the seniormost I. M. S. Officer in the Province of Madras. However I tried to banish the idea of that coveted promotion from my mind, it loomed large before my mind's eye and marred my equanimity.
Then I said to myself, "Why am I fretting unnecessarily? The next time I visit Bhagavan, I shall request him to grant me this promotion!"
When I visited the Ashram again I went before Bhagavan with my mind resolutely set on requesting him for that boon. But a marvel happened. As soon as I saw Bhagavan my mind melted, the resolution evaporated, and I felt filled with a strange contentment. A request did formulate itself within me, but it was an entirely different request. I inwardly prayed, "Bhagavan, free me from my craving for this promotion. I don't want anything mundane. Instead, grant me my soul's evolution." My prayer seemed to be instantly granted. Effulgent joy flooded the very depths of my being. I reverently bowed before Bhagavan and he gazed at me benevolently.
My last visit to Bhagavan was on the day he attained Nirvana. I have described it in my book, Saintly Galaxy: how, on visiting him, I found that his body would not last beyond that day; how I silently prayed that he might retain his body till I brought my wife from Vellore as she had always been anxious to witness a great saint's last moments of life; how she brought orange juice for him; how he would not accept any drink at all; how, once again inwardly, I implored him to drink the orange juice to save my wife from deep disappointment; how he accepted my unspoken prayer and asked for orange juice to the transcendental delight of my wife and myself; and how, shortly afterwards, in utter tranquillity, he passed on. That was a scene of great sombre beauty.During my two months' contact with Bhagavan, I did not speak a single word with him. But what wonderful grace he poured into me through his benign, benevolent gaze! A peerless spiritual experience indeed!
The Journey of My Heart
Passages from the Diary of a Pilgrim to Sri Ramanasramam
December 18, 1982: Kunju Swami recounted how he was given the mission to accompany the Princess Prabhavati to Kerala following her marriage. She spent a month in the home of friends; Kunju Swami lived in a mutt. At the end of the planned time period the princess wished to extend her stay. Kunju Swami decided to go on yatra to various holy places in Kerala. When news of Kunju Swami's intent reached Bhagavan, Bhagavan expressed annoyance that Kunju Swami had neglected to do the job for which he had been sent, i.e., to look after the princess.
Immediately on hearing this, Kunju Swami moved into the house where the princess was staying and stayed as long as she wished. "Thus, Bhagavan was always kind and considerate to women," Kunju Swami remarked, "but we (men) received his reprimands!"
Kunju Swami said the person who goes round Arunachala barefoot is indeed blessed according to Hindu mythology. When the person goes to heaven, the bruises on his feet will be worshipped by all the deities of heaven! Moreover, when they bend over to touch the bruises with their heads, their crowns will bloody the pilgrim's feet even more! The pilgrim will then be doubly blessed! "Therefore, you're not selfless for wishing to walk on Arunachala barefoot. On the contrary, you're selfish!" Kunju Swami concluded laughingly. So saying we took our seat on a flat rock, one of the few places before Gautama Ashram where Bhagavan would customarily stop when going by the inner path.
Far from the road or any visible habitation, Kunju Swami remarked that on the hill Bhagavan would tell them, "This is our kingdom; that (i.e., the town) is their kingdom." On the hill the devotees could sing, dance and act with complete freedom. In Bhagavan's presence, day and night they enjoyed an extraordinary feeling of intoxication. He alone had to bring them back to the world from time to time. Once a devotee asked Kunju Swami, jokingly, "What would you do if Lord Siva appeared before you right now as a column of light and offered you heaven?" Kunju Swami replied without hesitation, "I would refuse it. The happiness of heaven could in no way equal the happiness of being in Bhagavan's proximity here on earth!"
He further said that on the day of Sri Bhagavan's Mahanirvana the devotees' minds were filled with grief, yet within a day they discovered that, when speaking of Bhagavan, they would feel the same infectious joy that they felt in his physical presence! Bhagavan, though no longer in the body, continues for them as before!
Being with Kunju Swami on the hill and talking of Bhagavan, I felt I too am Bhagavan's direct disciple, enjoying the same happiness his presence imparted to his most intimate companions! Ganesan then commented that coming out on the hill and talking of Bhagavan, he finds that for him the Ashram and all its related concerns disappear; moreover, the worries related to the body disappear. I said this was my experience too, for I had not even taken note of the fever I'd developed in the afternoon.
Among his devotees, Sri Bhagavan established the rule while going round the hill, that once they reached Eesanya Mutt they must be quiet. Bhagavan was so particular never to create trouble or disturbance to anyone that he would have the devotees split up and take different routes back through the town. He himself would walk with a towel over his head to avoid notice. All would regroup behind the temple of the town. Bhagavan would make sure they were all there, and they would return up the hill together, to their "Kingdom".
Bhagavan did not have a rigid ethical code. Kunju Swami was very young when he first came to Bhagavan. At times Kunju Swami and a friend, for fun, would see how many times they could run from Skandashram to Virupaksha Cave and back. Chinnaswami would object: "This boy is so irresponsible! It is his duty to bring us food from the town-what if he falls and breaks a leg!" Bhagavan would tenderly say, "It is not he who is doing it... It's his age that is doing it!" In speaking of a misdeed, the strongest word Bhagavan would use was "mischief".
Kunju Swami described Bhagavan's state of mind as all-knowing, yet without an element of personal will; that is, he did not "read" minds nor would he give any indication or display of this ability. It was simply his natural state.
The thoughts and past deeds of all were immediately apparent to him. About this facet Bhagavan once commented, "It is true I know the innermost thoughts of you all, but if I brought them all to light would any of you stay here?" Kunju Swami narrated this with a laugh.
Bhagavan's complete and total disregard for siddhis set him apart from virtually all other saints, Kunju Swami noted. It seems on one occasion Bhagavan said he had experienced his body dissolving into the five elements, yet called it back. "There has never been a saint so unique as Bhagavan, who remained so human, so simple and so ordinary to all appearances," Kunju Swami exclaimed in ecstasy, "and I don't think there could ever be another one like him again!"
Since our talk continued after sunset we returned to the Ashram by the road and Ganesan filled me in on a few details about our venerable friend. As a boy Kunju Swami was found to be very intelligent, possessing a prodigious memory.
At one time he wished to take up a study of Vedantic texts and told Bhagavan, "Not for myself, but for the sake of others!" He had the gift of eloquence and could easily quote from any number of scriptures. Bhagavan, however, forbade him pursue this study. In subsequent years when Bhagavan saw Kunju Swami talking to devotees he would now and then chide him by asking, "Are you doing it for yourself or for others?!" Thus, Kunju Swami came to understand that it was he himself who was helped when he spoke with others of Bhagavan's teaching and life. Therefore, I must thank you for helping me remember Bhagavan, Ganesan concluded!
(continued in the Mar/Apr issue)
A Tribute from The Dalai Lama
The heritage of India is enriched with numberless saints and yogis. Ramana Maharshi represents that tradition and his spiritual greatness is guiding millions of people. Such masters light the path and bring solace to suffering humanity.The Dalai Lama
November 5, 1965 — from The Mountain Path
Scientist Turned Vedantin
Benefit of a Darshan of Sri Bhagavan
An anonymous author, a scientist, sent the following article to Sri Ramanasramam on April 14, 1946. It was written in Tamil and only recently retrieved from the Ashram's archives and published in the 1996 Tamil souvenir commemorating the 100th anniversary of Sri Bhagavan's Advent at Arunachala. Prakash Adiseshan of Ann Arbor, Michigan has translated it to English, condensed it and sent it to us for publication.
A youngster was pursuing study in the scientific discipline in college.
He would attend lectures in science given by eminent scientists such as Sir C. V. Raman. He was convinced that a career in scientific research would provide fulfilment in his life. On the eve of graduation with a Bachelor of Science degree, he wanted to visit a few places before returning to his hometown. He happened to think of Tiruvannamalai, a town where his father used to frequently visit Sri Ramanasramam. Having never seen a Sage in person, an urge to visit the Sage's Ashram arose in him. After arriving in Tiruvannamalai and entering the Ashram, he obtained the Maharshi's darshan. This Sage he saw did not appear like the one he had seen in the movies. The Sage was wearing koupinam and appeared to be an ordinary person. The youngster bowed down before the Sage and sat in the hall in front of him. Maharshi was seated and remained silent. There were many people present in the hall, but the hall was quiet.
Some time passed in this manner. After a while, the youngster was unable to continue sitting in a quiet manner. He did not know what to speak to the Maharshi. Fortunately, there were a few books near Maharshi. He picked up one of them and began to read. It was an English translation of Ulladu Narpadu with explanations.
In that book, concepts such as "Being is One," "The world is unreal," were enunciated. But the youngster could not understand them. At that time, his knowledge was confined to science. He could not help feeling confused in the following line of thoughts: "Why should God create me? Where was I? Where will I be? Why should I remain here? Is all that I see false? I do know the presence of objects using my five senses. Don't I see the Maharshi sitting in front of me?" He could not read the book anymore. He fell into a contemplative mood. Just at that time, the Maharshi addressed the youngster thus: "What is the doubt?" The youngster raised his head and said, "There is a human figure on the sofa. There is one on the floor. Upon looking with my eyes, I perceive these two very clearly. But you say that in Reality there is only One. How can that be true?" Maharshi smiled and kept quiet for a little while. After the passing of a few minutes, he replied to the youngster's question and said, "You must be used to performing experiments in your laboratory. Let us say that you are examining an object. The amount of detail you see depends on the quality of the instrument you use to examine the object; the more detail your instrument shows, the more you know about the object. Even in the presence of such a fine instrument, if your eyesight is poor you will know very little about the object. If your eyesight is good and if the brain is not normal, the object's true nature is not known to you. Similarly, if your brain is fine but if your mind does not pay attention to what you are observing, the less you will know about the object. In summary, the amount you know about an object is dependent on an entity called mind. What is mind? It is thoughts. All the thoughts spring up from a single thought. This single thought forms the source of all the other thoughts comprising the mind. This thought is the I-am-this-body thought. Without such a thought, the other thoughts that identify various external objects and cause the body to be identified separately from the external objects cannot occur. In deep sleep, devoid of I-am-the-body thought, this alienation of external objects does not happen; further, there are no other thoughts in that state. Upon waking up, the first thought to occur is the I-am-this-body thought. There are two components in this thought. One component is body and the other component is I. The body is of transient nature; it is subject to change and it depends on external factors for its existence, such as food. But the nature of 'I' is opposite from that of the body. What exists in truth should be existing always. The body does not exist all the time, so that is not the truth. The 'I' exists in all states including waking, dream sleep and deep sleep. Hence 'I' is the truth; body is untrue.
Both of these combined cannot exist as one entity that is true. How will night and day, light and darkness coexist? When there is light, there is no darkness; when there is darkness, there is no light. Similarly, there is no entity that has as its basis the coexistence of 'I' and body. So the I-am-the-body thought has no basis in truth. If we examine the world with this untrue thought as the basis, how could we learn the Truth?".
At that moment, he felt that the foundation of his knowledge being shaken up and his conviction in scientific pursuit providing the ultimate fulfilment suddenly disappeared. Further, the Maharshi said that one can realize the truth about the world after knowing the Truth about oneself. He spoke about Self-Enquiry as the means to knowing Oneself.
The upadesa the youngster received changed his mental attitude and, subsequently, his daily activities. The youngster pursued life in the same environment he had before. But he looked for life's fulfilment in the spiritual path, blessed by the Maharshi. He took up graduate studies and further undertook a career in teaching. However, he had no desire to achieve fame anymore. He felt that the Grace of Maharshi allowed him to lead a harmonious life.
The Light that shines as Maharshi is the source of all and in all beings and is Iswara Himself. Let us pray in our hearts to the Maharshi and live joyously.
Letters and Comments
My wife and I are suffering a lot. She with her physical problem and the depression that comes with it, and me, I don't know. She said the other day, "I feel like selling everything and taking off!" I do not enjoy anything: work, home, quiet activities-nothing. Everything is a chore. Is our life-style in question, or is this a phase of progress. I am following all the teachings of Bhagavan. I do japa and pray for faith, like the pilgrim, almost constantly. I find it all so confusing, like I am banging my head against the wall.There is no peace and quiet in meditation and we have trouble fitting it in twice a day. Only on the weekends do I listen to tapes. I don't think I have the right daily program to help settle me down.
This is My Gift to You
I have been planning to write to you for some time now but only recently discovered your e-mail address. I can't begin to tell you how much attending the New York Ashram's 47th anniversary of Bhagavan's Mahasamadhi in April meant to me. Thank you so much for your kindness and hospitality. We had fully expected and hoped to be able to be at the Nova Scotia celebration at the end of August and get to see you again as well. Unfortunately, it was not to be this year.
It has been a very difficult time for me since we were at the NY Ashram in mid-April. Two weeks after our visit I discovered I had cancer. After various tests and a trial of antibiotics I was scheduled for surgery at the end of May. However, the surgery had to be postponed when I came down with a severe cold two days before the scheduled surgery. The surgery was finally accomplished on June 18th. I came through the surgery pretty well and went home the same night. I had to close my office for three weeks for the recovery. The biopsy showed that it was indeed cancer, a cancer fairly rare in my age group (I'm 46). The most common age for this type of cancer is 15 - 35 years old and less than 1% of men get it.
After the surgery I was advised to undergo three and a half weeks of radiation therapy which raises the cure rate from 80% to virtually 100%.
So I underwent the radiation therapy and finished on August 8th. Because the radiation is done over the abdominal and pelvic area I got quite sick (nausea and diarrhea). It has taken me quite a long time to recover from the side effects of the radiation and I am only now beginning to feel like I am on the mend.
What really helped me get through all of this is my depth of faith in Maharshi. I must have read every book I have of his at least three times during this period. My meditation practice increased considerably as well. So, I think there is definitely a silver lining to this cloud.Early on, before the surgery and a certain diagnosis, I had a dream/vision in which Bhagavan came to me briefly and holding his hand over the cancer-infected area said "This is my gift to you." I felt elated and interpreted it to mean that the tumour would be cured and all would be well. After the surgery and diagnosis I came to the conclusion that my original interpretation was incorrect and in fact the tumour itself was the gift. This experience has placed me even more firmly on the path — in truth, an invaluable gift. I do hope to be able to visit again in the not too distant future. I wanted to let you know that I really value my one visit and it came at just the proper time in my life as well. Also, the Nova Scotia Anniversary photo of Maharshi included with the last newsletter was a wonderful surprise!
Thank you for writing. So many seekers write, visit or call here, and so few follow up with any personal contact, I honestly forgot who you were by name and only recalled your April visit when you mentioned it in the body of your e-mail.
Nothing could be more true than what Bhagavan said to you in your vision. Anything which awakens us to the fragility and impermanence of the human body is certainly a gift from God, and it seems this cannot be done better than by physical suffering. I am sure that most aspirants, including myself, found that they experienced the deepest insight into truth when they were the closest to death.I was very glad to read that your strength is returning. I am sure that now, after this profound experience, you will utilise that strength with greater intensity for the realization of the ever-present Self, which Sri Bhagavan is for us.
Effective Practical Method
Some three years ago, I began to realize the futility of the life I was leading, and the things my peers and friends were so excitedly looking forward to. I felt confused and sometimes aggrieved, realizing there was no meaning in all these things they were hankering after, but there was nothing I could do. Life kept rolling on, exams came from time to time. I was gradually losing my balance, torn between two worlds-one of Truth of an absolute sense, and another of fear, desire, pain, anguish and meaninglessness.
Then I heard of Ramana Maharshi.
Within a few weeks I devoured every book of His I could lay my hands on. I realized that this was no ordinary mortal being but verily the Supreme, and almost every saying of His brought tears to my eyes when I experienced the full force of its meaning.
I decided then and there to spend the rest of my life in the way recommended by Him. I have been only very marginally successful.
I am from Madras which is just a couple of hundred kilometres from Ramanasramam, and so I used to go there whenever it was possible. I did experience the peace and bliss so highly talked about when I was there and I never wanted to come back, but I had to.
Whenever I returned to my normal life, the frustrations and feeling of futility came rushing right back, and so here I am in the U. S. A. doing my Bachelor's degree with no sense of direction or purpose at all.
What I'd like to request of you is to help me by letting me know if there is a PRACTICAL way of getting rid of this turmoil of the mind such that I can practice Self-enquiry unhindered. At the moment I feel like I'm trying to control a hundred mad elephants with my bare hands.
Therefore, I implore you to let me know if there is an EFFECTIVE, PRACTICAL way by which I can still continue to do my everyday activities, which will help me gain calmness and detachment and, ultimately, take me to the Self.Please reply as soon as possible. Thanking you for your kind attention.
Since you are blessed with the desire for a higher life, some struggle or turmoil is inevitable. It is your sincere aspirations conflicting with past samskaras, or latent tendencies, that causes this friction. One should not become frustrated because of it, but pursue the ideal with perseverance and constancy. No one has ever succeeded without a struggle.
Bhagavan always teaches us the practical method to abide in Him and go on with our daily activities. If we are able to do the former, the later will go on automatically and we will always rest in peace in spite of activities.
We must somehow, by any of the methods, train the mind to turn inwards and abide in the Self. At first we may be frustrated at our attempts, but that is no reason to give it up. As we mature by prayer and practice everything falls into its proper place and we discover that the peace and joy that we have been seeking so long is really always present. It is what we are, our very nature.
Activity is not the obstruction to peace; it is the belief that we are the bodies that is the obstruction. To remove this obstruction we must, by repeated practice, turn the mind inward and let it dissolve into its Source.
Then work will not bind us or hinder our happiness.
To do selfless service, or work without desire, is an aid. You are a student. It is your duty to study to the best of your ability. Do it. Then leave the results to God. The results do not affect the real 'You' in any case. You are always free. Do not give way to thoughts of turmoil. The turmoil can be only in the mind, and you are not the mind. Let the mind be in turmoil, but who are you? Know that and rest in your own Self which is unalloyed peace, free of turmoil.
All this is known and experienced by practice and prayer. It comes to us gradually as we mature. If you persist you will soon come to know what kind of thief the mind is and then you will no longer be deceived.
The 118th Jayanti of Sri Ramana Maharshi
Will be celebrated at the New York City Arunachala Ashrama on Saturday 3 January 1998 at 11 a.m.
The program will consist of puja, bhajans, viewing of interviews with old disciples and prasad (meal).
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi Center
Tel: (718) 575-3215