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THE  MAHARSHI


May / Jun 2006
Vol.16 No.3
Produced & Edited by
Dennis Hartel
Dr. Anil K. Sharma
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Sri Janaky Matha

 

The following article, which describes the life of a unique devotee of Bhagavan Ramana, was written by Darlene Delisi Karamanos, using Dr. G. Swaminathan's Biography of Guru Devi Sri Janaky Matha for source material. July 27th is Janaky Matha's one hundredth birth anniversary.

Sri Janaky Matha was a wife, mother of seven children, community volunteer, devotee of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and an enlightened soul. Her amazing life of inner visions, spiritual yearning, surrender and bhakti inspires all to pursue the spiritual ideal, delve into the Supreme Self and not waste even a minute in the process.

Born on July 27, 1906, the child Janaky exhibited unusual detachment. She accepted all things with a joyous heart. Janaky was full of devotion to the local deities, Sri Viswanatha and Visalakshi, and as she grew in years, Janaky desired to be like Sita, the ever-faithful, pure and holy wife of Sri Ram.

In her thirteenth year her uncle discussed with Janaky her willingness to marry a doctor who was then thirty-two years of age. When told that the widower had two daughters, aged two and six, Sri Janaky replied, "What of that? That doesn't make much of a difference and, after all, I like children." Even though her parents were not too keen on this matrimonial arrangement because of the extreme age difference, Janaky intuitively felt that the doctor would be helpful in the attainment of her goal of Liberation. So in 1919, Sri Janaky married Dr. C. S. Ganapathy (known hereafter as 'Doctor'), in a quiet ceremony performed before Lord Venkataramana of Tirupathi. The Doctor was often heard to remark: "Wherever you (Janaky) go, I shall follow you." And where else could she go, but to God? Living in Tirupathi, Sri Matha's devotion to Sri Venkataramana grew steadily.

In 1921, she gave birth to a daughter and named her Padmavathy, after the consort of Lord Venkataramana. Then a son, Srinivasa Subrahmanya, was born, and several years later another daughter, Sarada.

There came a point in her life when she realized: "To none but Him (God) should true love be directed. To turn to the Divine is the only truth in life." From that day on she continued to take care of her family and responsibilities but shifted her life's ideal to that of total devotion to God.

At the age of twenty her daily routine was as follows: She read the Gita and other Scriptures until about 1 a.m. every night. Janaky would get up at 5 a.m., finish her ablutions and meditate until 7 a.m. Then she would take a bath, recite hymns while attending to household work for about three hours, and after sending the children to school and the Doctor to work, she would engage herself heart and soul in worship until 1 p.m. From 1 to 4 p.m. she was busy looking after the needs of her husband and children. At 4:30 p.m. she would go to the Ladies' Club (which did much volunteer community service), attend meetings, play tennis and return home at 7 p.m. Upon returning home she would meditate for an hour before taking her supper of gruel and milk. Though she took very little food, she was healthy and always cheerful.

Although the Doctor was then earning a good salary, owing to various reasons, there was a lack of funds. One day before going to bed she prayed to Sri Subrahmanya to keep her carefree by taking on His shoulders the oppressive burden of the family's welfare. The next day, a sannyasi (ascetic) came to her house. She was all alone when he said to her, "You were calling me yesterday. I have come from Palni. Leave to me all your family worries and worship me with a carefree heart. Whatever is needed for the family - be it money or other needs and necessities of life - will be provided for." He asked her to give him the promise that she would never forget him. After she agreed, he disappeared.

After this she had many wonderful spiritual experiences and visions of deities, often lasting the whole night.

Sri Subrahmanya came twice more in the disguise of a sannyasi. When Janaky revealed this to the Doctor, he replied with scepticism, "I will believe your words only if He comes here when I am in." Janaky responded, "If that be your desire, let it be so."

The Doctor had just returned for lunch when they both felt a presence outside. Seeing a sannyasi, both Janaky and the Doctor came out and offered him a chair. He took some food and said, "You wanted me to come when your husband is in, and here I am." To make the Doctor believe His Divinity, He exhibited some psychic powers. He asked for another chair and requested Janaky to be seated. She felt reluctant to sit on the same level with Him, but he insisted and asked her what more she desired. Janaky requested Him to bless her with a Sadguru in human form.

What the sannyasi next said to her shocked her very much. "I am none none other Subrahmanya. Much pleased by your meritorious actions and depth of devotion, I have a longing to be born as a child to you. I will play with you for two years and then my power will get infused in your heart." Janaky exclaimed, "My Lord! You want me to plunge deep into the ocean of samsara (worldliness) when my desire is to ferry across it." She argued that she would not be a good person to bring up an incarnation since she was on fire with renunciation. What if she forgot His Divinity and scolded and punished him? What if she took pride that she had Subrahmanya at her beck and call; she would be in the depths of delusion. What if she turned to psychic powers and fell short of her goal of realization? Lastly, she begged, "Let me be blessed with a Guru."

With a smile of His face, Subrahmanya said, "Am I not your Guru? Anyhow, if such be your wish, there is a Mahatma by name Sri Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai. You may go and have His darshan." He showed Janaky a photo of Bhagavan Ramana that he was carrying. It was the first time that she had heard about Bhagavan Sri Ramana. Saying that he would come again to discuss with her His desire to be born as her child, He disappeared from sight.

Her heart then surged with an intense love for Bhagavan Sri Ramana. She continued with her meditations, worship, household chores and volunteer work. Day by day, Janaky could feel a number of changes happening to her nervous system. Her visions continued. A severe pain developed in her spine and she became bedridden. Her nerves seemed to have been shattered and often the heartbeat was faint and hardly audible. In spite of all this, her mind remained peaceful. Friends wanted her to be seen by specialists, but the Doctor was sure it was not a disease to be treated medically and that, by the grace of God, she would be all right. This state continued for forty days and then disappeared as mysteriously as it came.

After a few days, a sadhu appeared before her and again asked about Subrahmanya being born to her. Again she pleaded that she didn't need obstacles, but a helping hand. The sadhu assured her that, "Begetting a son will in no way shackle you in bondage. There will be no hindrances to your spiritual progress."

Janaky and the Doctor went to Sri Ramanasramam on April 20, 1935. Her long cherished yearning was now going to materialize. Bhagavan was sitting in the meditation hall. The moment Janaky entered the hall, the full and gracious look of Bhagavan fell on her. She stood motionless, intoxicated with the nectar flowing through Bhagavan's eyes. Bhagavan asked her to be seated. Her heart swelled with joy. Her mind was ready to absorb the full flow of Bhagavan's Grace. Throughout that night she enjoyed visions of Bhagavan blessing her.

To Janaky, Bhagavan was no different from the formless Arunachaleswara. In the evening hours of their departure day, Janaky knelt before Bhagavan and spoke to Him of her desire for liberation and Sri Subrahmanya's decision to incarnate in her womb. She also revealed her experience of the all-pervasive nature of the Paramatma and awaited instructions from Bhagavan as to what she should do next. He said, "Continue doing it in just the same way."

With the infant Swaminathan, Janaky and the Doctor returned to Sri Ramanasramam for the blessings of Bhagavan in August 1936. For a long time Janaky had been praying for her husband's spiritual awareness to be aroused so that he might not, at any time, stand in the way of her spiritual progress. Bhagavan asked both the Doctor and Janaky to come before him and he read aloud "Upadesa Saram" (Essence of Instruction) and asked them to follow it. Janaky's heart was overflowing with joy.

To quote from Janaky Matha's biography:

".From the moment she first came to Bhagavan Sri Ramana, He was her all. She reasoned, 'There is only one thing in the world worth achieving: the root cause of the whole universe, the 'One Without a Second'. I must attain it, realize it and experience it with Bhagavan's Grace."

Physically and mentally drained by her spiritual experiences, Janaky sought Bhagavan's help in October 1936. At an opportune moment, she prostrated before Bhagavan and poured out her heart to him. She told of her spiritual experiences and begged for his protection and the removal of obstacles in her quest for Liberation. She also expressed her fear of becoming deranged because she had no Guru to guide her. Bhagavan replied: "Who told you that you have no Guru? Don't get disheartened. I am here as your Guru; nothing will upset your mind." With that assurance, she transferred all her cares and worries to Bhagavan Ramana.

About a year later, Janaky felt something like a forceful explosion at the back of her head and powerful currents throughout her spinal cord. She did not think her physical body could withstand it. She said to herself, 'Let things take their own course. The grace of the Guru will do what is right and good for me.' This state continued for twenty-six days after which she asked the Doctor to take her to Sri Ramanasramam. He was reluctant at first due to her evident weakness, but allowed himself to be persuaded. Sri Bhagavan's full glance of grace poured forth blessings and strength on her. Even before Janaky had informed Bhagavan of her experiences, he spoke to her about a similar experience he had had in his early days: "Look here. Don't get frightened. One day while I was lying in bed I felt as if I had been bombed from inside at the back of my head."

Sri Janaky Mata

The young Swaminathan, who had just completed his second year, said to Janaky in a sweet, childish voice, "Mother, see here! That Bhagavan we saw there in Tiruvannamalai is always standing near you. He follows you wherever you go." These words were a source of great consolation and joy as Janaky continued to feel the protecting grace of Bhagavan.

It was January of 1938 when Janaky's body became rigid from her toes upward. She thought she was nearing her end. Her mind withdrew into Sri Ramana in the heart. She had many visions and experiences, but the one that crowned all others was the experience of the dynamic force or Sakti ascending and embracing the Supreme Self. The kundalini continued to push upwards and tried to break through the spot in the top of her head. Janaky cried out, "What are you trying to do? Bhagavan Sri Ramana and I are inseparable! Against the downpour of the Guru's Grace, you can do me no harm." With this, the force stopped its attempts and bodily feeling returned. She told the Doctor that she had at last been set free from the rounds of birth and death and had attained her long cherished goal. The purpose of her earthly life was fulfilled. By the grace of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, Janaky became a Jivanmukta (liberated soul) at thirty-two years of age.

Janaky had travelled between Ramanasramam and her home whenever she felt the need to be near Bhagavan, but on January 18, 1938, while visiting Ramanasramam, she did not feel like continuing in family life. Doctor was upset and felt as if he had now lost his second wife. The younger children were grief-stricken. Their appeals and tears did not dissuade her as she was revelling in a glorious spiritual realm. Then, the next morning, she remembered the promise she had made to Bhagavan to remain in the family for five more years. She immediately said she would go back with them to Kakinada. Bhagavan gazed at her and said, "Did I ask you to become a sannyasini? Look at me. I have not taken sannyasa and do not wear the ochre cloth. You have only one family, but I have to shoulder the burden of all these devotees and their families." She knew then that renunciation must be in the heart.

Janaky was wondering why she should be having so many visions and experiences when her only desire was to be free from the cycle of birth and death. Bhagavan gently said, "Can one get this for the mere asking? It seeks the heart where it wants to shine."

As the Doctor and Janaky were preparing to leave, Bhagavan told the Doctor, "You doctors say that the heart is at the left side of the chest. But the whole body is the heart for yogis. Jnanis have their hearts both within and without." He then gazed at Janaky and again assured her: "I am always with you."

Bhagavan was her All. She desired only to contemplate the Holy Feet of Bhagavan. In the months and years that followed, devotees were drawn to Janaky as bees to honey. She began to be addressed as Sri Matha. She took a few of them to Sri Ramanasramam and said to Bhagavan, "All these people seek me as their Guru.I have never wished to be a Guru. I would request Bhagavan, in all humility, to kindly accept these devotees as Bhagavan's disciples."

Bhagavan said, "When you are above likes and dislikes, desires and aversions, let things take their own shape. To the extent they believe in you, they will reap results. I will protect those who, with full faith, trust in you."

Another incident that happened at Ramanasramam occurred when an oil lamp went out and the hall was in darkness for a few minutes. When the light came back, three-year-old Swaminathan exclaimed, "The light failed and Bhagavan was not visible; the light came back and Bhagavan is seen!" Bhagavan turned to the boy and said, "What you say is precisely correct. When there is ajnana (ignorance), God is not realized. With the dawn of jnana (wisdom), He is seen." As it was Bhagavan who gave Sri Matha her light of wisdom, she decided to pay for the electrification of the Ashram.

Even after realization, Sri Matha carried on with her domestic and social activities. She was elected President of the Child Welfare Centre and Vice President of the Ladies' Club. She performed all her actions for God's sake in a supremely detached manner. With equanimity of mind, she saw the Lord in all of the world.

To some people she would advise, "Lead a righteous life and discharge your duties to the family, conduct family worship, practise charity, have an abundant life and learn to gradually still the waves of passion." To others who wanted to know more about Liberation, she taught, "Always nurture Divine thoughts, obliterate likes and passions and surrender to the Guru."

There were times when Sri Matha was lost in samadhi, oblivious to her surroundings. Food had to be forced into her mouth for sustenance and she had to be bathed by others, as she was oblivious of her body. At other times she attended to her routine work and concealed her exalted state.

After the marriage of her daughter, Sarada, Sri Matha was making final arrangements for a permanent stay at Sri Ramanasramam. After bowing before Bhagavan, the ten-year-old Swaminathan poured out his sorrow, weeping bitterly and rolling on the ground. He sobbed, "Pray give us back my mother and order her to come with us to Thanjavur."

Bhagavan, with a voice choked with emotion said to Sri Matha, "What can I do?" Then turning to Swaminathan said affectionately, "Take your mother and go back to Thanjavur." Sri Matha submitted to Bhagavan's request and returned with the Doctor, Swaminathan and the three-year-old Ramachandran.

At Sri Matha's request the southern portion of the family house remain as an ashram and spiritual centre with Sri Bhagavan as the Sadguru. The main objective of the centre is to spread the teachings of Bhagavan Ramana.

Moments before her passing away, in April 1969, devotees and relatives chanted Bhagavan's hymn Aksharamanamalai, with the refrain of "Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva."

Sri Matha's life stands as a shining example of perseverance to the ideal of Liberation and devotion to Bhagavan Ramana. Once, when some of her devotees were having a lengthy discussion of Bhagavan's 'Who am I?' enquiry, she halted them saying, "Enough of this discussion! My head begins to swim with such dry and useless discussions. Amma knows only one thing - to show devotion to Sri Bhagavan." It was through such steadfast devotion that Sri Matha achieved Liberation.

 


"A Realized Soul who knows the truth is aware of the fact that he is not the body. But there is one thing more. Unless one looks upon death as a thing that is very near and might happen at any moment, one will not be aware of the Self. This means that the ego must die, must vanish, along with the inherent vasanas." .s. Letters from Sri Ramanasramam

 

126th Jayanti Celebration in California

 

The following was extracted from a talk delivered on January 14th, 2006 by Swami Prabuddhananda Maharaj of the Ramakrishna Mission, at the 126th Jayanti celebration of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, organized by the devotees of Arunachala Ashrama, California. Swami Prabuddhananda, Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, had the good fortune to have had darshan of Bhagavan shortly before his Mahasamadhi in 1950.

Friends, I thank you all, especially my friend Swaminathan, for inviting me to this gathering.

We are here to commemorate the sacred memory of Sri Ramana Maharshi. I had the good fortune of having a short physical glimpse of the Maharshi. It was just before he passed away in 1950 and after his last surgery. At the time I was in the final year of my college education.

During that period four spiritual personalities were prominently talked about: one was Ramana Maharshi; another was Sri Aurobindo; yet another was Swami Ramdas, and the fourth was Mahatma Gandhi. These four were often discussed, especially in religious circles. I naturally had the desire to see them, but in those days we were students and there was difficulty getting money to travel.

When I went to see the Maharshi, I was living in Bangalore. Tiruvannamalai was closer than even Pondicherry where Sri Aurobindo lived. Mahatma Gandhi, of course, was very difficult to reach. So when the opportunity arose I set out with two friends for Sri Ramanasramam. We students used to interpret the lives of these four in our own way. We would say that Ramana was a great Jnana Yogi, Ramdas was a Bhakti Yogi, Gandhi was a Karma Yogi and Aurobindo was a Raja Yogi. Thus we had our own ideas. I was at the time living in a dormitory run by the Ramakrishna Mission. The Ramakrishna Swamis would often mention that Sri Ramana was a Jivanmukta.

A Swami told one of the devotees, "If you want to see a Jivanmukta in the body go right now to Tiruvannamalai. He may not be available much longer." So it happened that we went and saw him, and not long after our visit Sri Ramana passed away. We spent only one and half days at Tiruvannamalai, and during these last days of the Maharshi's physical presence there were lots of people visiting him. We would file past him in a line which was formed outside his room and he would look at us every now and then through the open door. We had darshan like this twice. That was the only glimpse I had of Sri Ramana. The days when one could sit with him and ask questions were already gone when we went to see him.

But we had faith. 'Teerthi kurvanthi teerthani,' it is said, which means that these great mahatmas make the teerthas, or places of pilgrimage, even more sacred. Of course, Arunachala was already a hallowed place of pilgrimage, but sages like Sri Ramana make the place even more sacred.

I don't know the history of the Ramana movement very well, but right after Ramana's Mahasamadhi there was not too much talk about him or groups formed in his name. These seem to have started later. This movement appears to be growing, and that is the way of the Jivanmuktas. See how we now have such a large group here in California. Their power - call it vibration if you like - will go on spreading long after they leave, influencing and transforming people. This is the great service that they do for mankind. Unlike modern activists with all their service projects, mahatmas do their job silently.

Swami Prabuddhananda

As Sankaracharya says in his Vivekachudamani: "Shanta mahantho nivasanti santo vasantavat lokahitam carantah." This means that there are pure souls who have attained peace and greatness. It is they who bring good to mankind like the coming of spring. When spring comes, there is joy, sunshine and cheerfulness everywhere. The great ones serve humanity like that - silently transforming people.

We even see this happening here now. Wherever a Jivanmukta looks, the place will become purified. He has looked at us and so we have become purified. That was the satisfaction we had then when I saw him in 1950. Another statement is also made: "Yatra yatra mana thatra thatra samadhi." "Wherever his mind is, that is samadhi only." There is no need for sages like Ramana to sit in a certain position or close their eyes.

I don't know all the details of Sri Ramana's life. But I have read here and there how he left home, came to Arunachala, lived in a cave, and performed his austerities etc. When we say 'austerities', in his case it was not deliberate. When we perform austerities we use our will power and try to control our minds in order to achieve spiritual progress, but in the lives of these great people, we see that renunciation and austerities come naturally, without any effort on their part. For them even meditation is a natural thing, without any struggle. There is a statement in the Narada Bhakti Sutras: "Sachasti kurvanti shastrani," "By their conduct they corroborate the teachings of the scriptures." Such was the case with Sri Ramana Maharshi.

I have picked out just one verse from Ramana's "Reality in Forty Verses": "If one enquires 'Who am I?' within the mind, the individual 'I' falls down abashed as soon as one reaches the heart. Immediately the Reality manifests itself spontaneously as 'I-I'. It is not the ego although it reveals itself as 'I', but the perfect Being, the absolute Self. When you go deeper with this enquiry things drop off automatically until we finally reach the Self."

This is also called Brahman in Vedanta or Atma or Satchitananda, asti bhati priya. In the Puranas, words like Bhagavan, avatara, Rama, Krishna are used to refer to the same reality. "Satyasya Satya" is also a term used in the Upanishads meaning "Truth of truths". There are many truths in this world but they are changing or are impermanent. Our Self is the Truth of truths. Thus when we say Ishwara or Brahman or Rama, we may as well say 'I'.

There are so many paths - ritual worship, prayer, meditation, etc. There is also Karma Yoga where we see God in others and serve them. Sri Ramana says all these paths lead to the same goal. Although the final aim is to realize the 'I', all these are supportive of that. Not only are they supportive, but Bhagavan says that love of God and surrender to God is itself Jnana. The same result is experienced by the "Who am I?" quest. Just now you were singing hymns on Arunachala. When I saw that, I was so happy. As you know, Ramana had great love for Arunachala. Dogmas always divide people, create differences of opinion and conflict. But experience always unifies. When you read Sri Ramana Maharshi's life and teachings, it is all very harmonious. You will never find anything rebellious anywhere. He just talks about facts, the truth. Why should one fight? However, in religious and philosophical circles, there is wrangling all the time. Maharshi's teaching is plain and simple What is the 'I'? It is the Self itself.

A lot is said about Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga and about which one is superior. I was extremely happy to read these words of the Maharshi:

"By whatever path you go, you will have to lose yourself in the One. Surrender is complete only when you reach the stage 'Thou art all' and 'Thy will be done'. The state is not different from jnana. In soham there is dvaita. In surrender there is advaita. In the Reality there is neither dvaita nor advaita, but That which is, is. Surrender appears easy because people imagine that, once they say with their lips 'I surrender' and put their burdens on their Lord, they can be free and do what they like. But the fact is that you can have no likes or dislikes after your surrender and that your will should become completely non-existent, the Lord's Will taking its place. Such death of the ego is nothing different from jnana. So by whatever path you may go, you must come to jnana or oneness...."
"...Surrender to Him and abide by His will whether he appears or vanishes; await His pleasure. If you ask Him to do as you please, it is not surrender but command to Him. You cannot have Him obey you and yet think that you have surrendered. He knows what is best and when and how to do it. Leave everything entirely to Him. His is the burden. You have no longer any cares. All your cares are His. Such is surrender. This is bhakti."

Can we say that Sri Ramana Maharshi was an Advaitin? I would say he was not. He is more than that: "Dvaitadvaita vivarjita," it is said - beyond dvaita and advaita. So what is the conclusion?

"There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the 'I' and merging into that source. The other is feeling, 'I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful, and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me'; and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation."

See the point Sri Ramana is always making - The ego does not count. The empirical personality, or vyavahaarika jiva, really has no existence. Such a synthesis is what is needed.

Once a young man visited Ramana. He was about to join the Ramakrishna order at that time. He asked the Maharshi, probably to clear his doubts, "There are so many activities that I want to do even though I am a spiritual seeker. I want to serve people and do various kinds of social service. What should I do?" The Maharshi said, "What else can you do? Yes, you should serve people." Another young man went to Bhagavan. He wanted to stay in Sri Ramanasramam. "What do you want to do?" Bhagavan asked him. "I want to realize God and serve humanity," the man replied.

Thank you.

 

Sri Ramana Children's Ashrama

Will be conducted at the Nova Scotia Ashrama from

July 10th to July 14th (Monday - Friday)

If you would like to participate, or
would like more information regarding the program,
please contact Darlene in Nova Scotia
by calling (902) 665-2263
or sending email to:
darlene at arunachala

Accommodation is available within the Ashrama for
all participants, and longer visits can be arranged.

Arunachala Ashrama
1451 Clarence Rd., Bridgetown
Nova Scotia, Canada B0S 1C0


 

Ramana Satsangs

Satsangs with recitations, songs, readings and meditation have been going on in a few places near or in large cities. Some of them are weekly. If you would like to attend any of these, please see the Sri Ramana Satsang listings.
 

 
"The Maharshi" is a free bimonthly newsletter distributed in North America by Arunachala Ashrama, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi Center. You can subscribe to this newsletter's announcements by email. This issue and all back issues are available as html pages or (from 2000 to the present) in Acrobat PDF format. Books, images, videos and audio CDs on Sri Ramana Maharshi can also be found in the eLibrary and On-line Bookstore pages.