2. Question Contains the Answer
3. No Mirror Can Ever Shave
4. Visit with Swami Nityananda,
5. 106th Sri Ramana Advent Invitation
6. Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana, Part 3
7. Slow and Difficult
8. Meet a Living Jnani
9. Losing My Mind
A Visit with Ganapati Sthapati
Sri Ganapati Sthapati, the foremost South Indian temple architect, was recently in the Washington, D.C. area for the consecration ceremonies of one of the many temples he has built for the Hindu community in the USA. James Hartel, a long-standing member of Arunachala Ashrama, went to meet him, accompanied by a few other local devotees. James will be studying temple sculpturing and architecture under Sri Ganapati Sthapati's direction in India from September to January and he came down from his central New York home to meet with him regarding this study program.
Sri Ganapati Sthapati is the son of Vaidyanatha Sthapati, the builder of the Matrubhuteswara Temple and New Hall in Sri Ramanasramam. Vaidyanatha Stapathi also sculpted the life-size granite image of the Maharshi displayed in the New Hall in front of the stone couch, which was also his handiwork.
Though highly learned in the Sastras, especially related to the temple construction, and though a gifted sculptor and temple architect in a long lineage of temple architects, Vaidyanatha Stapathi was barely able to feed his family with the income earned by his profession. The times were not favorable, and his son, Sri Ganapati Sthapati, was naturally discouraged from entering into his hereditary profession. That's where the Maharshi's intercession and grace altered the son's decision and crowned him with unimaginable success. Living for ten years in the proximity of Sri Bhagavan, Sri Ganapathi offers us a few glimpses of the guidance and grace he received during that period in the following interview that took place when James Hartel and friends visited him.
The summer evening was cool. It had just rained a little. The sun escaped from the clouds and lit up the Rajagopuram of the Maha Vishnu Temple near Washington, D.C. We were waiting in anticipation to meet an elderly gentleman who is said to have been in the physical presence of Sri Bhagavan. The crimson light falling on the Rajagopuram aptly showcases the work of the man we are about to meet, Ganapati Sthapati. A little while later we meet him in the quarters adjacent to the temple.
When we brought up the notion of interviewing him, he was quick to point out that anything of spiritual worth cannot be formalized in an unnatural fashion. The spirit of what is being discussed can never really be captured in words. It has to be natural. We were asked to write whatever we can remember from memory, later on, and not to tape the interview.
His words on Bhagavan started with a question: "You do know that there can never be anyone like Bhagavan - don't you? Sri Bhagavan is svayambu - no external help was necessary for Him to realize the Self. He was a pure soul. It is by Sri Bhagavan's Grace that I am doing what I am doing today. I have seen Sri Bhagavan when I was young. He would call and talk to my father and me. We behaved very casually in His presence. My father was Vaidyanatha Stapathi. It was not common for Bhagavan to initiate conversations, but He was very free with my father and me. I do not know why. I can only consider myself fortunate.
"Once when Bhagavan was reading the newspaper, he announced that I had passed in my SSLC examination. I do not know how he knew and remembered my registration number to be able to recognize it in the results published in the newspaper. A similar thing happened when my intermediate results were published. Bhagavan said, 'It looks like you have passed in first class.'"
On being asked if Bhagavan instructed them during the construction of the temple, he said it was his father's duty to go and report to Bhagavan about the construction progress.
"When deciding which college to go to, there was a consensus that pursuing an engineering degree in Madras would be beneficial. But my father had a meager income of Rs. 100 per month, obtained from building the temple in Sri Ramanasramam. How could we afford my education in a far away place? Bhagavan one day said, 'There is a college that is going to be opened locally. Vaidyanatha Stapathi's son can study there.' It turned out that the newspaper reported that a college, Alagappa Chettiar College, was to be opened in Karaikudi. My name appears first in the college registry there. There was no engineering degree then at the campus. In fact, the college was started without any real buildings. If I had gone away to study engineering I would not be doing what I am doing today.
"My father was quite a disciplinarian. He would not eat in Sri Ramanasramam when he was doing work in the temple. He did not want to eat where he was getting paid for the job. But the solicitude with which our family was treated can never be forgotten. Sri Niranjanananda Swami used to send food prepared in the Ashram to our house. The person delivering the food would be asked to remind my mother and us that our father should not come to know that his family was partaking of Ashram food. Despite my father's way of separating work from personal relations, we were treated as part of Bhagavan's family.
"When I go to Sri Ramanasramam I still feel so one with it. There is no part of the Ashram that feels alien from myself; one feels so much at home. People used to come with their bundle of questions about pressing problems to Bhagavan. They may not even get a chance to unbundle their difficulties, but it would all melt away in His presence.
P>"The increase in knowledge and wealth that I have experienced in my life is all due to Bhagavan's Grace. Everything comes from Him. For instance, I have written books about Vastu Sastra. Where did the knowledge come from? I have written another book entitled Who Created God? expounding ideas methodically. I did not have the wherewithal to write these things. It is Bhagavan's Love and Grace that has enabled everything. In all these years of work I have had no real sickness. The work does not feel like a burden. It is God's work. Age is a different thing. It is 'time' that creates, sustains and terminates things we see. But the essence of what is done is timeless.
"There is no need for me to say these things, but it does come out in some situations."
There were tears in his eyes as he spoke.
"What is your idea of a pujari at the temple? A pujari should accept what is offered on the plate. He should not ask. He should endure poverty and worldly suffering while maintaining the ideal. In those days when I went with my students to the big temple in Tanjore, the temple priest will be looking forward to welcoming visitors even from far. You can see him rising from his seat as we approach. He would do the archana and arati and kindly inquire about our visit. It is the humility with which they conducted themselves that set them apart from the current generation.
"People normally say that they do not want any more births. I say that I should have many births and in every one of them I will be glad to serve as Sthapati.
"When someone asks me who I am, I say that I am one of the aboriginal people of India. Some historians have dated the Vedas to be a few thousand years old. But the Vedas itself states the geography of the region in which it originated to be an island, surrounded by water (jambudveepe). This must have been before the land masses became what they are today. The tradition espoused in India is indeed timeless."
When the interview was over, we had been in his company for over an hour. We had our supper before meeting him and we had inadvertently delayed his to 10 p.m. When we expressed our apologies for the delay, he quickly dismissed it and with the remembrance of Sri Bhagavan lingering in the air he ambled over to the dinner table!
As a parting gift, he provided us with copies of his work on Rajagopurams and Vastu Sastra.
Question Contains the Answer
By N. Balarama Reddiar
The answer is contained in the question itself, for the answer is always the ever-existing Self and the question is only a modulation of it." This remarkable saying of Sri Bhagavan finds an apt illustration in the following instance.
One of our old devotees, the late Sri. A. Bose, lost his only son, a bright boy of twenty. Upset very much by this loss he had a private interview with Bhagavan, which was arranged during His resting time between twelve and two in the afternoon. At one stage in the interview he asked Bhagavan in what appeared a challenging mood, "What is God?". For such a long-standing devotee, the question seemed incongruous!
Bhagavan kept silent for a while and then gently said, "Your question itself contains the answer: What is, (is) God." This illuminating answer was amazingly the question itself!
One should note here that it is not merely a clever or well thought-out answer. That may be so in the case of ordinary men. A Jnani's utterances are free from the intermediary action of the mind, which colors and often distorts the truth. In the case of the seers, it is said 'sense follows speech.' Also, Bhagavan's silence before answering the question was evidently meant to prepare the questioner to receive the full impact of the answer.
No Mirror Can Ever Shave
By C. K. Anavema Reddy
There is a small piece of conversation from the life of Sri Bhagavan which, as far as I am aware, has not been recorded. Though brief, it has remained very vivid in my memory.
It was in 1940 that one day one of the devotees sitting in the hall raised the topic regarding the utility of reading books on religion and philosophy. In reply Sri Bhagavan said, "You wake up in the morning and look into the mirror and the mirror shows you that you have a growth and that you have to get rid of it. You may go on looking into any number of mirrors; every mirror will tell you the same thing, but no mirror can ever shave you. You have to shave yourself. Instead of wasting time looking into mirror after mirror it is best to start shaving after having looked into the first mirror and known the truth.
"So also all books will tell you the same truth, perhaps in slightly different ways. Instead of wasting time reading book after book why not realize for yourself what was obvious from the very first book."
These words of Sri Bhagavan are pregnant with deep significance and are capable of being elaborately commented upon.
(These two articles, and "Swami Nityananda" on the next page, have been taken from the 1972 issues of The Mountain Path magazine.)
A Visit with Sri Swami Nityananda
By T. P. Ramachandra Iyer
While staying with devotee-friends in Bombay during a long tour soon after Sri Bhagavan's Maha Nirvana, they took me along with them to visit Sri Swami Nityananda. If I remember right it was sometime in 1950.
On reaching Swami Nityananda's Ashram we found a large gathering of his followers already there. It was not certain whether we would be able to see him as his behavior was rather unpredictable at that time. We told the man in charge that we would take our chance and so sat in a row on the verandah before Swamiji's room. It occurred to us while waiting to recite Sri Bhagavan's "Upadesa Saram" in Sanskrit. As soon as we commenced chanting, we heard a roaring noise inside the room. The door flew open and the huge figure of the Swamiji darted out and sat down to listen to the recital beating time with his hands and approvingly nodding his head. As soon as the chanting was over he roared again and gave us a happy and penetrating look. Seeing the offerings of fruit and sweets brought by my friends he distributed them himself to all present. Then he plunged back into the room and looked at us through the open window graciously.
Again he roared at somebody to give us food, but since we had already eaten we excused ourselves. All of us did obeisance to the Swamiji in front of the window and he nodded in reply and retired. I learned afterwards that Sri Swami Nityananda had great reverence for Sri Bhagavan whose darshan he had in earlier days.
We all felt deeply moved by the effect of the recital of the "Upadesa Saram" on the Swamiji which enabled us to have his darshan contrary to all expectations. We were greatly impressed and moved by his presence.
106th Anniversary of
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi's
Advent at Arunachala in New York City
You, your family and friends are cordially invited to join us
in celebrating the
106th anniversary of Sri Ramana Maharshi's arrival
at the holy Arunachala Mountain.
Sunday, 8 September 2002
The program will begin at 11:00 a.m.
Hindu Temple Society of North America (Ganesha Temple)
143-09 Holly Avenue, Flushing, Queens, NY 11355
Special guest, Sri V.S.Ramanan,
President, Sri Ramanasramam, India
will speak on "Surrender".
The program will also include recitations, bhajans, puja, followed by prasad (lunch).
For more information, call (718) 575-3215
The Nova Scotia Ashrama will celebrate Bhagavan's Advent
Sunday, Sept. 1 - (902) 665-2090