2. Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana
3. 3rd Aradhana Programs in the USA and Canada
4. Henri Cartier-Bresson, Leading Photographer of 20th Century
5. A Downfall and Break
6. The Mountain Path Journal
7. Mahanyasa Purvaka Rudrabhishekam
8. The Last Word
A Day with Bhagavan
S.Mohan and his wife Nirmala were on a visit to Connecticut this year and, hearing of the Maharshi's Aradhana Program on May 3 in New York City, made a two-day trip to the Ashram to attend it. Soon after arriving, S.Mohan told us the following interesting story of his father-in-law, and he was later requested to repeat it to the devotees and guests at the Aradhana function.
Sri V.N.Srinivasa Rao (VNSR), my father-in-law, received his M.A. in law from both the Madras Presidency College and the Wadham College, Oxford, England. For many decades he utilized his highly refined intellect, astute insight and noble instincts to prosecute injustices and defend the innocent as a respected advocate of the High Court of Madras. He was a tall, stately person, very meticulous in his research work and of considerable eminence. He was not exactly an iconoclast, but he was not orthodox either. He liked to look at things from an independent, objective, logical viewpoint.
My wife and I had once attended a function at the Ramana Maharshi Centre at Lodhi Estate in Delhi when the Shankaracharya of Sringeri inaugurated the Library. This was our first introduction to Bhagavan and we had liked the unique ambience at the Centre. We thought this might be a nice place to take Sri VNSR.
1979 when VNSR was visiting us at Delhi, the Lodhi Estate area near the Ramana Kendra was still in an early stage of development. The road near the Kendra was quite craggy and rough.
As we approached, Sri VNSR seemed excited. He was normally a very quiet person and we could sense a change in him. "Mohan! Where are you taking me? Be careful!" he exclaimed.
We soon reached the Center. He was very quiet. When we returned home to Greater Kailash, he just said, "You took me back years and years!"
It was not until 1983 that he finally clarified this statement by narrating his experience of being engaged by client to sue Sri Ramanasramam and then meeting Sri Bhagavan.
He told us:
It was late December, perhaps 1943 or so. It was raining heavily and I was sitting in my office room at Krishna Vilas, about to close up, when there was a knock on the door. A lady holding a dripping umbrella stood at the door. She was bespectacled and looked slightly forbidding.
I rose from my desk. "Yes, madam?" I said.
"Mr. Srinivasa Rao?" she queried.
"Yes, that is my name. How can I help you."
"You are a lawyer, I gather!"
She spoke English quite fluently. She leaned the umbrella on the door.
"Yes, madam," I replied.
She made a move to enter.
I said, "You see, I have finished for the day. Could you come tomorrow?"
She stopped and said, "All right, goodnight!" and left with her umbrella.
My father had advised me to test clients out to find out the really serious ones. The next evening, she was there again. After she had seated herself near my table she said, "I want you to file a suit for me."
"What is the issue and whom do you want to sue?" I asked.
"The Ramana Ashram," she replied.
"What is the Ramana Ashram?" I asked.
"It is in Tiruvannamalai. They are not allowing me entry. They call me mad!" she exclaimed.
I pondered. She was certainly intimidating. She spoke English quite well. I gathered her mother tongue was Telugu.
"Who is in charge of Ramana Ashram?" I asked.
"Ramana Maharshi, I suppose" she replied.
"Who is Ramana Maharshi?" I asked.
She looked surprised. "Don't you know Ramana Maharshi?" she asked, quite agitated. She then told me something about him, of her devotion to him and how the Ashram authorities were preventing her from entering the Ashram.
She had by then become considerably excited and I could imagine how she might be a difficult person to handle.
"I cannot file a suit just like that," I said. "I will need to meet Ramana Maharshi and get clarifications."
"You are a lawyer, right? Why do you need to meet the Maharshi?" she asked heatedly.
I was firm. "I am not just a lawyer, madam. I am a barrister. I do not take action without understanding the situation. I cannot take any action in your case unless I meet the Maharshi and get things clarified."
She seemed to think it over, and finally said, "Then you will have to go to Tiruvannamalai!"
"If you arrange for it, I will," I rejoined.
So that is how I landed early one wintry morning at the Tiruvannamalai Railway Station. Hardly anyone got down at this stop. I approached the Station Master. "Can you please direct me to the Ramana Ashram?" I asked.
He looked up at me. I was dressed in Western clothes with a hat.
"Why do you want to go there?" he asked.
"I am a lawyer. I have business with Ramana Maharshi," I replied.
He looked bemused, and then burst out into a laugh.
"You want to do business with him?" he asked.
I felt a little resentful. "Please show me how to get to the town," I said, with a little anger.
"Look, sir," he said, "If you want to go to the Ashram, there is no need to go to the town. In fact, I don't advise it. There is an epidemic in Tiruvannamalai. Come, I will show you to a horse cart. The driver knows the Ashram well and he will directly take you there!"
So I got into the horse cart. The driver was a Muslim with a beard.
"Don't worry, Saab!" he exclaimed, "I will take you safely to the Ashram."
The path was craggy and the road was rough. Many times doubts assailed me. "Where are you taking me?" I shouted. The driver would simply look back and laugh.
"Don't worry, Saab! I will take you there safely. I know the way!"
So we ultimately reached the Ashram. I paid off the cart driver and approached a building. Someone showed the way and I reached a large room.
I took off my shoes and entered. There was no one there, I think, except the Maharshi. He sat near a brazier and was warming his hands. He looked up and smiled pleasantly.
I was about to speak when he called someone and gave him some instructions. The person beckoned me and took me to a dining hall. He then placed a leaf-plate in front of me and I was served iddlies and sambhar. I can never forget the taste of those delicious iddlies and sambhar.
When the breakfast was over, I was taken to a room. I washed and changed into more comfortable clothes.
When I returned to the hall again I found many people seated there. The Maharshi was seated on the couch. He again saw me enter and beckoned me to sit at a place near the couch. I sat down.
Someone then got up and addressed me.
"I gather you are a lawyer, sir, and you have come to represent Mrs. _______ ," he said.
I then also stood up and, with much dignity, said, "Yes, sir, my name is V.N.
Srinivasa Rao, Barrister. May I know your name?"
He replied, "I am Dr. _________ . We gather that you are planning to take legal action on behalf of Mrs. __________."
I said, "Yes, sir, that is correct."
He said, with some impatience, "She is mad!"
I looked at him severely. "You said you are a Doctor, sir. Are you prepared to give me a certificate in writing that she is mad?"
He looked seriously at me. Then he just shrugged his shoulders and sat down.
I turned back to see the Maharshi beckoning me.
When I approached him, he asked me details about myself. I spoke to him of my credentials and stated that I had come on behalf of Mrs. _______.
He smiled and pointed to a particular place near the wall.
"Is she the one who used to sit there?" he asked.
I was confused. I just remained silent.
He then asked me, "Where is she?"
I said, "She should be at the gate of the Ashram."
"Are you sure?" he queried.
"I am quite sure. That was our agreement." I replied.
He then pointed to the door. "Bring her," he said.
I went out to the gate. Sure enough, she was standing there, complete with her spectacles and umbrella.
I told her, "The Maharshi has asked me to bring you in ... no melodramatics please. Promise me you will behave yourself."
She shook her head in assent.
"Follow me," I said, and turned and came to the hall. She followed meekly.
Just as we stepped into the hall, she threw down the umbrella and crying "Bhagavan! Bhagavan!" ran up to him and fell at his feet.
It was then that I realized the significance of the Maharshi's earlier query. I went up to her and said, "Madam, you promised me you would control yourself. Please come and be seated." I pointed to her old place. She went quickly and sat down.
I turned to the Maharshi. He gave me a brilliant smile. He pointed to a place quite close to the couch. I sat there the whole morning. He made someone bring a photo album and made me go through it, pointing out various people and mentioning names. At this length of time, I only remember the photo of a cow. He said, "That is Lakshmi."
He later arranged for me to be shown all over the Ashram. He particularly asked my guide to show me Paul Brunton's cottage.
The rest of the day passed like a dream. We had lunch and he again made me sit near his couch.
Later that evening I realized I had to catch a train back to Madras. I thought it would be appropriate to take leave of the Maharshi after all the kindness he had bestowed on me. I went up to him to inform him.
He looked surprised and said, "But you have to eat dinner. You can leave after dinner."
I went and packed all my belongings and made my way to the dining hall. Orthodox brahmins were seated in a long row. I slowly went somewhere to the end of the row and sat opposite a leaf-plate.
Someone suddenly came to me.
"Please get up and come!" he said.
I thought that I might have sat down at a wrong place.
"This is perfectly OK," I said, getting up awkwardly.
"Bhagavan is calling you," he said. "Please follow me."
We went right up and there was the Maharshi seated in front of a leaf. Another leaf was laid near his.
"For whom do you think this has been laid?" he asked affectionately.
I was taken aback and slowly sat down. We began to eat.
As I was an irrepressible young man then, I looked up at him and asked, "Is it permitted to speak?"
"Of course," he replied, "Ask anything you want."
We actually had quite a long conversation between mouthfuls. I asked him many questions and he answered all of them. I remember vividly one particular question I asked and the answer he gave me.
"Please tell me," I asked him, "Is Mrs. _________ really mad?"
He smiled and replied: "Some people come here a quarter mad, and they go back half mad! Some people come here half mad, and they go back fully mad! Some people come here fully mad, and I don't know what happens to them! Is it not all so wonderful?"
After dinner was over, I washed and went and prostrated to him.
I then left for the station. The same horse cart was there.
"So did you see the Maharshi?" asked the cart driver.
" Yes-s-s," I replied pensively.
When the train came, I got into my compartment. Someone opened the door and came in.
It was the Station Master. His eyes were bright with excitement.
"We heard all about it! You are a very fortunate young man!" he said and shook my hands eagerly.
Many years later, Sri VNSR was attending a marriage, when an old man who was seated on a chair there beckoned him.
"You are the lucky person who spent a whole day with Bhagavan, aren't you?" he asked. Sri VNSR admitted it was so.
It was the Station Master.
Sri VNSR continued his advocacy into old age. He helped many causes. Once when we were visiting Madras, he called us to him and said, in a very matter of fact manner, "Nirmala and Mohan! Yesterday I managed to completely eliminate the mind!"
We were much moved.
One day in 1993, he said to his wife, "Lakshmi, I am very satisfied!"That night, quietly, he slipped away from his body in his sleep and reached Bhagavan's Lotus Feet