2. Sri Ramana's Childrens Ashrama
3. Trudging Along to the Holy Hill
4. Bhagavan's Companion Jacky
5. You Must Love All
A Long Life with the Maharshi
On February 23, 2009, devotees in India and around the world celebrated Sivarathri, the Night of Siva. On that same day, in Sri Ramanasramam, the 11th volume of the Collected Works of Ganapati Muni,edited by Sri K. Natesan was released. To compile and publish all his written works became the finalmission that Sri K. Natesan took up six years earlier, while in his 89th year, and now, at last, on the Nightof Siva the final volume was released and his mission was accomplished.
When just a youngster, studying in the Arunachala Temple Veda Patasala school, Natesan came under the influence of Bhagavan Ramana, and not too long after that, Ganapati Muni. The Muni encouraged him to write and study his compositions, which he did throughout his long life, collecting and copying every-thing Ganapati Muni composed. The Maharshi took genuine interest is this. Then, in the evening of his life,Sri Natesan clearly felt the inspiration and guidance of both the Maharshi and the Muni to take up thisenormous task.
After the release of the the 11th volume (the 12th volume, an index, is yet to be printed), Natesan's friends expected he would soon be released from his physical vestige, an event which he eagerly awaited. And it happened just one month later, on March 21 in Tiruvannamalai.
For the past year Sri K. Natesan stayed at his brother's home in the town, at the foot of the Holy Hill. Knowing his end was near, he wished to leave his body residing there. On his final day, when his family saw his life force ebbing, they called an ambulance to take him to the Sri Ramana Maharshi Rangammal Hospital. In route to the hospital, just as the vehicle was passing in front of Sri Ramanasramam, Sri K.Natesan breathed his last, his soul released from the body, merged in the feet of his Master, Sri Ramana.
In 1993, he gave us the following article about his life. Reading it again after all these years we realize what a fortunate soul he was, and also how fortunate we all were to have moved closely with him for more than 35 years.
I WAS BORN into a very orthodox Brahmin family on November 26, 1913, in the village of Mondakurathur, near Polur, North Arcot District. That was also the birthplace of the Maharshi's renowned devotee, Echammal, who was related to me on my mother's side of the family. My father, Brahmasri Krishna Ganapati, was a great Vedic scholar who taught Krishna Yajur Veda for thirty years in the local Vedapatasala.
I had my first darshan of Bhagavan Maharshi at Skandashram in 1921 when I was eight years old. Sri Vasudeva Sastry, one of the earliest devotees of Bhagavan, took me to see him. Vasudeva Sastry was at that time teaching me Sanskrit in the Patasala of the Arunachaleshwara Temple.
Later in 1923, when Bhagavan came down to the present ashram, I used to visit the ashram often and sit in front of the Maharshi. At that time I was studying in the Municipal High School where Sri T.K.Sundaresa Iyer was a teacher. After completing high school in 1930, I waited two years before joining an engineering college in Madras. During those two intervening years I was at the ashram almost daily, along with T.K.S. I used to spend time there even at odd hours of the day or night.
In 1936, after earning a diploma in civil engineering in Madras, I worked for six months under Sri K.K.Nambiar. K.K.Nambiar, already a staunch devotee of Bhagavan, had at that time the good fortune of being posted as the District Board Engineer right in Tiruvannamalai itself. By Bhagavan's grace, I was almost constantly at the ashram between 1935 and 1945, though I was employed off and on in various places. I often quit jobs to come to Sri Ramanasramam and be near Sri Maharshi. My attachment to Bhagavan was such that I could not remain employed continuously until, by Bhagavan's grace, Sri K.K.Nambiar, who was then the Chief Engineer of the Madras Corporation in 1945, got me employed by that Corporation. That ended the rolling-stone phase of my life, as I retained this job until my retirement in January of 1969. Throughout all these years I would never miss an opportunity to come to Bhagavan's ashram.
After Ganapati Muni became the recipient of the Maharshi's grace, all his doubts were dispelled at one stroke by the vision of the Reality. The Muni surrendered to the Maharshi on Monday, November 18, 1907. This event has been described in detail by various writers. What is not very well known is that on the afternoon of that November day in 1907 at the Virupaksha Cave, Nayana wrote five verses in Sanskrit lauding the Maharshi, proclaiming him as Bhagavan Sri Ramana. He gave the paper containing the verses to the Malayalee attendant Palaniswami. It is our bad luck that these verses were lost due to the negligence of the attendant.
In the beginning, the Maharshi used to address Kavyakantha Ganapati Muni as Ganapati Sastrigam, which the Muni did not like because it was a respectful form used to address elders. The Maharshi was his chosen guru and he felt uncomfortable being addressed by his guru in this manner. Understanding the Muni's objection, the Maharshi compromised and thereafter called him 'Nayana', the same name by which his disciples endearingly addressed him. In Telugu, the word 'Nayana' means both child and father.
In 1908, from January to March, Nayana lived with the Maharshi at the Pachaiamman Temple. One early morning Nayana and other disciples were all sitting in front of the Maharshi who was, as usual, indrawn. The Muni saw a sparkling light come down from the sky and touch the forehead of the Maharshi six times. The Maharshi also was aware of what was happening. Immediately the Muni had the intuitive realization that the Maharshi was none other than an incarnation of Lord Skanda. The seer-poet, Nayana, gave expression to this revelation through his famous eight verses, "Ramana Asthakam", beginning with "Yanayatra.." This was later included in the "Forty Verses in Praise of Ramana" that was compiled by Bhagavan himself after Nayana's passing in 1936.
When Nayana had known Bhagavan for some years he questioned him one evening as to whether he was correct in recognising him as Skanda and extolling him in the Ramana Gita as Lord Subramanya. Though the Maharshi heard the question he remained silent. Nayana then mentally prayed to Bhagavan to answer his question at least by the next day. Consequently, when Nayana went to him the following day, the Maharshi looked at him and said, "Ishwara Swami (a devotee of the Maharshi) wrote a verse in praise of this Vinayaka (Ganesha) image sitting in a niche in the Virupaksha Cave. At his request I also wrote a venba verse on that Pillayar (Ganesha)." Then Bhagavan explained the meaning of that venba to Nayana. In the verse, Bhagavan entreats Lord Ganesha to look after him, because he is a younger brother who has come after him. Nayana was much gratified to hear this as he felt it was a confirmation that the Maharshi was an avatar of Skanda.
On April 16, 1922, when the Maharshi was still living in Skandashram, Nayana composed the following verse in praise of Bhagavan:
May the ascetic, wearing only a white loin-cloth, who once used to ride on the celestial peacock and has now come down as a man on earth, reign over the world as its unique Master!
This shows that Nayana had foreseen as early as 1922 that the Maharshi would shine forth as the world teacher of the age. Many of Nayana's declarations were prophetic.
In 1923, on January 3, when the first Jayanti of Bhagavan was celebrated in Ramanasramam, Nayana composed this verse:
There is the light of Uma in your eyes for dispelling your devotees' dark ignorance. Your face gleams lotus-like with the grace and brilliance of Lakshmi. Your words contain the secret lore of Saraswati. Preceptor of the worlds! Ramana the great! How can a mortal sing your glory?
Again, in this verse, Nayana hailed Bhagavan as vishvacharya, world teacher. Once Bhagavan was engaging himself in collecting the Sanskrit verses written by devotees in praise of him. I happened to be present there at the time and mentioned to Bhagavan that Ganapati Muni had composed the following verse:
vande sri ramanarser-acaryasya padabjam, yo me'darsayadisam bhantam dhvantam atitya
Then Bhagavan asked me where I got the verse and where and when it was written by Nayana. In 1936, after Nayana's death, Bhagavan collected all the verses Nayana wrote on him and entitled it "Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana." This was published by the ashram in the same year. Bhagavan had no knowledge of the above verse at that time. I explained to him that Kapali Sastry and S.Doraiswamy Iyer requested Nayana to translate into Sanskrit verse Sri Aurobindo's English poem titled Mother. After hearing the gist of the poem, Nayana started the translation on May 18, 1928, under the heading Matrvyuhacatuskam. However, it was never completed. In this translation Nayana wrote the above verse as an invocation to Bhagavan.
Bhagavan requested to see the manuscript with the verse. The next day the notebook containing the verse in Nayana's own handwriting was shown to him. He copied it and said that it should be added as the invocation to the next edition of "Forty Verses in Praise of Sri Ramana." In all the subsequent editions the verse can be seen.
Between 1935 and 1945, though employed off and on in various places, I often quit jobs and left for holy places without informing anyone. Eventually I would end up back at Ramanasramam. Once on my return Bhagavan asked me which places I had visited. I replied that I had been to Tiruttani, Tirupati, and Padaiveedu (Renukamba Kshetram). Then the Maharshi pointedly asked me what was in my mind at that time. Straight away I gave a spontaneous answer in the form of the following verse from Ramana Gita:
Lord, not on Swamimalai, nor on Tiruttani Hill, nor on top of Venkatachal (Tirupati) do you now dwell. In reality you are in Arunachala!
The Maharshi smiled.
On the occasion of my wedding on July 5, 1942, T. N. Venkataraman, now the [late] President of Sri Ramanasramam, came straight to Vellore from Karaikudi to attend the ceremony. The train passed through and stopped at the Tiruvannamalai station, but T.N.V., along with his eight-year-old son, stayed on the train and came straight to my marriage. When T.N.V.'s father, Chinnaswami, heard about it he began to scold his son and criticised him for going to Vellore to attend the wedding. Bhagavan overheard this from the Old Hall and said, "Why is he shouting? Ambi (T.N.V.) has gone to attend his friend's marriage. There is nothing wrong in this."
After I got married I came to the ashram with my new wife and did pranams to Bhagavan in the Old Hall. My wife, Jnanambal, was already deeply devoted to Bhagavan and had had his darshan even as a girl of eight.
That day, after leaving the Old Hall, my wife and I went and visited Major Chadwick in his cottage. I had known Chadwick since his arrival in the ashram in 1935. He congratulated us on our marriage and remarked about the appropriateness of the bride's name, saying, "Jnana you wanted and Jnana you have gained."
Major Chadwick was one of the very few souls who moved closely with Bhagavan. One day he called me and requested me to show Sri Bhagavan a piece of paper in which he had given a definition for Self-realization. Sri Bhagavan read it and appreciated it very much. Chadwick wrote:
Self-realization: It is the death while yet alive of that which lives after death.
In the earlier days some people used to sleep in the Old Hall. Once I slept there near the southern door at the west side of the hall. I did not get up even after 5 a.m. Bhagavan came near me and touched me with his right toe saying, "Get up. Day has already broken." I immediately got up and had the darshan of Bhagavan. This is called Visvarupa darshanam, the first darshan of the chosen deity in the morning.
There was Veda Parayana every evening at the hall in the presence of Bhagavan. He would be mostly indrawn at that time. Following the Veda Parayana, from 7 to 7:30 p.m., recitations of the Maharshi's works in Tamil, Telugu, Sanskrit, and Malayalam would take place. Devotees like Ramaswami Pillai, Kunjuswami, T.K.Sudaresa Iyer and some others used to take part in it. In the earlier days I was also participating. During Tamil Parayanam I noticed Bhagavan appeared quite unconcerned with things around him, though he remained fully attentive to the recitation. He wouldn't hesitate to correct our pronunciation of the verses, as he was particular to obey all the rules of prosody. Once I recited incorrectly the last verse in "Arunachala Pancharatnam" and Bhagavan pointed it out to me, demonstrating how it should be pronounced. He was satisfied only when I repeated it to him correctly.
Once when I was in Madras, T.P.Ramachandra Iyer's father was writing a letter to the ashram. In it he was including a certain Sanskrit verse. Because he was not familiar with the Sanskrit alphabet he asked me to write it for him. I did so, and when the letter reached the ashram and Bhagavan saw the verse he looked up and told the devotees in the hall, "Oh, now K. Natesan has gone to Madras."
Bhagavan was so keen and alert that he could recognise even my Sanskrit handwriting. I felt blessed to be remembered by him, even though I was away from the ashram.
Another time I was sitting before Bhagavan and Vaidyanathan Stapati was showing Bhagavan the sculpture he was making of him. The Stapati asked Bhagavan for his opinion as to whether it was a good likeness of him. Bhagavan said, "I can't say. Only Natesan knows."
Vaidyanathan Stapati looked at me and Bhagavan said, "Not that Natesan, the barber Natesan." He considered the barber to be the best authority on artistic representations of his body.
After retirement from service I have come back to the ashram to serve the devotees. The ashram President, Sri T.N.Venkataraman, being a close friend of mine since 1934, found me very useful to the new devotees since I could function as both a receptionist and an instructor. The president had entrusted me with the accounts of The Mountain Path magazine, etc. I served in the office until 1987. I ceased to work in the office due to glaucoma and cataract. Again, by the grace of Sri Bhagavan, I was completely cured of my eye trouble and normal sight has been restored. Since I am getting aged, the ashram president was kind enough to accommodate me as an old resident devotee in the ashram.
I realize that I do not have the power to relate in writing what the Maharshi is, or what he has done by living in our midst, or what he will be to future generations. Let all those who aspire for liberation and eternal happiness turn to him for guidance and grace, and then, I am sure, his unique mission to mankind will be known in the hearts of the seekers.
To try to introduce Sri Ramana Maharshi to the world at large is just like trying to introduce the sun to the solar system. Sri Maharshi is Self-effulgent like the sun. The Masters who appeared on earth before the advent of Sri Maharshi have shown several paths to get a vision of God or gods. But the Maharshi, by his unique, direct method of Self-enquiry 'Who am I?', has shown that realization of the Self alone is God-realization. And it is he that shines forth as the Self. Today the whole world has come to realize the greatness of the Maharshi on account of his direct path to realize the Self.
At one time the world was attracted like a magnet by the Atmic force of Gautama Buddha, and at another time the world was drawn by the pure, selfless life of Jesus Christ. At present the life and teachings of the Maharshi have spread widely to all the corners of the world as the Supreme Light of Advaita Brahman. It is my belief that the Maharshi has now become the Universal Master.
Sri Ramana's Childrens Ashrama
will be held at the Nova Scotia Arunachala Ashrama from
July 27 to July 31 (Monday - Friday)
Those who wish to participate, or would like more information,
please call Darlene at (902) 665-2263
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accommodation is available within the Ashrama for all participants,
and longer visits can be arranged.
Arunachala Ashrama1451 Clarence Road, Bridgetown,
Nova Scotia, Canada B0S 1C0
Trudging Along to the Holy Hill
Arunachala Bhakta Bhagawata
Although there was no one near my home who could teach me to seek the Self in a formal way, my three brothers read and recited the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana daily, and as a result of their religious life I was dyed indelibly with bhakti and jnana. The First World War and the non-cooperation movement of Mahatma Gandhi awakened my village people. As a result, my brothers and other village young men joined the ranks of the national movement. Thus, both the fires of deshmukti (national liberation) and atmamukti (self-liberation) began to burn brighter in my Heart. Although quite young, I remained immersed in the fast flowing fountain of vairagya (dispassion) and viveka (discrimination). Treading these difficult paths of patriotism and devotion was only possible with the infinite grace and mercy of Lord Ramana, who never allowed me to get entangled in projects that many a time led guileless aspirants astray.
When Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi burst into my Heart on Friday, 10 October, 1941 in Darjeeling in the Himalayas, he removed the veils of forgetfulness from me and enabled me to realize that it was he and he alone whom I had been seeking all these years. When I saw his many pictures and read the text of the book, A Search in Secret India, by Paul Brunton, the old relationship was re-established. How I wished to fly to the lotus feet of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi on the slopes of the holy Arunachala Hill! But he did not allow me to come to him while he was abiding in the body for the simple reason that I might look on him as the body. Instead he sent me into the world to work out my latencies before returning to him. Then, exactly eleven years later, in the guest cottage of the Quaker family of Helen and Albert Bailey, Sri Bhagavan came to me again and revived the smouldering fire of jnana and bhakti. Wherever he took me from there on, I found myself in his grip.
Now in 1979, while I sit in New York in Sri Bhagavan's Arunachala Ashrama, Sri Bhagavan makes me dream of the day when his temple shall rise on Fifth Avenue in this metropolitan city so that seekers of peace and happiness may wend their way there. Mornings and evenings shall be filled with the recitation of the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, etc. "Abide in the Self, in the inmost recesses of the Heart," shall fill the temple, and people from different walks of life shall learn to tread his direct path of Self-enquiry.
During all these sixty-seven years of my bodily sojourn, I have been yearning for the day when I would be able to pay my debt to the world. Unceasing abidance in the Self is the work cut out for me, and on the sheer strength of his grace I have all along been trudging along, trudging along to the holy hill of the beacon light. In the midst of plenty or in the midst of paucity, Sri Bhagavan makes me ache for mankind, but all I can do is to contribute my mite to the world by adding a grain of devotion. The mere existence of Sri Arunachala Ashram in the Western hemisphere speaks for itself, and if we are able to keep the flame of devotion burning brightly in this phenomenal existence, Sri Bhagavan will have taken the destined work from all of us. One thing that has always been certain is that Sri Arunachala Ashrama has been founded and conducted by Sri Bhagavan alone, using all of us as his ordinary instruments.
When Sri Bhagavan came into the world one hundred years ago, he resuscitated the age-old teaching of ceaseless inherence in the Self in the cavity of one's Heart. Anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances can profit from his unique instruction of returning to the source. He incarnated for the sake of removing the dense darkness of desire, delusion, ego and ignorance, to save us from the abysmal pit of forgetfulness. Though sometimes he taught in words, his most potent teaching has been in silence, from which all of us can profit without stirring from our place of birth or work.
The autumn sun is shining with its gentle and tender warmth and my Heart is dissolved in the ocean of Being, Consciousness and Bliss that the silent sage of Arunachala is for mankind. Sri Bhagavan is ever gleaming as "I-I" in the wide expanse of my Heart-lotus. He is the very breath of my life and I find myself dissolved in his name. Now he has brought me to the stage wherein there is no room for anything else but complete inherence in the Self in the cavity of my Heart. I am like the proverbial ant which tries to gauge the depths of the ocean and time and again endeavours to reach the bottom, yet fails in its attempts.
Arunachala Ramana teaches that no efforts ever go in vain. This teaching is the only hope for me, and with all my limitations I continue to call on him with his name, "Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya"
Each and every atom of my life is saturated with Sri Bhagavan's glorious and gracious presence, and the best thing for me to do is to keep quiet. My Heart is ever bubbling and bursting with the remembrance of his Name, and the more I do, the more the surging Ganga of his grace swells within me. These words and sentences have been flowing from the depths of my Heart as spontaneously as the mountain stream flows to the sea from the bosom of the Himalayas.Sri Bhagavan is the doer and I am simply his most infinitesimal instrument, and day and night I pray that he allow me to do his will. May I ever abide in Bhagavan Sri Ramana Arunachala!
Bhagavan's Companion Jacky
AMONG Bhagavan's canine companions, Jacky II had an honoured place. Jacky, the son of Kamala was born in Sri Ramanasramam. When he was a pup he never mixed with other dogs, nor did he play much. Instead he lived the life of a sadhu. He would sit in front of Bhagavan on an orange cloth that had been provided by a devotee and stare intently at Bhagavan's eyes. He was always looked after well as he behaved in such an exemplary manner and as also Bhagavan had a lot of love for him. Ramaswami Pillai, in particular, took good care of him. Every day he would wash Jacky with soap and water and remove insects from Jacky's body, if any. Whatever prasad was distributed, Jacky would not eat until Bhagavan began to eat his own portion. On such occasions, he would watch Bhagavan's face intently. As soon as Bhagavan put a morsel into his mouth, Jacky would start to eat his own portion.
Annamalai Swami, recalls an incident concerning Jacky that occurred while Bhagavan was sitting by the well, surrounded by devotees. Jacky was also sitting with the devotees, looking intently at Bhagavan. A stray dog entered the Ashram through the back gate and Jacky, distracted by the newcomer, began to bark. Bhagavan gently chided him by saying, "You just close your eyes. You just close your eyes. If you do this you will not be able to see the dog." Jacky obeyed at once, but some of the devotees continued to look at the stray dog.
When Annamalai Swami saw what was happening, he laughed and remarked, "This is a good teaching. It is not only for Jacky the dog, but for all of us."
One day a ferocious pig and Jacky II had a fight during which Jacky was mauled badly and his stomach was torn open and the intestines had come out. Chinnaswami, Bhagavan's brother and the manager of the Ashram, put Jacky in a basket and carried him on his head to a veterinary doctor. A major operation requiring many stitches on Jacky's stomach had to be done. After the operation, Jacky was laid on a soft bed in the mantapam across the street from the Ashram.
You Must Love All
from My Recollections, by Devaraj Mudaliar
At the same time, Kunjuswami was suffering with severe pain from an abscess on his foot. He was also lying in the same mantapam. Both Kunjuswami and Jacky II were well attended to by an Ashram devotee who also stayed in that mantapam with them.
Bhagavan came to the mantapam to enquire after the health of the patients. Kunjuswami, who could not bear the pain, cried aloud and fell at Bhagavan's feet. He begged Bhagavan to relieve him of his pain. Bhagavan, full of compassion, said, "See how Jacky is silently bearing his pain, without as much as a whimper, after such a major operation."
Looking at Jacky's endurance, Kunjuswami felt ashamed and did not complain again. Bhagavan stayed a little longer, enquired about their food, medicine etc, from the attending devotee. After giving solace to Kunjuswami and patting and petting Jacky, Bhagavan returned to the Ashram. After getting solace from the nectar-like words of Bhagavan, Kunjuswami then slept peacefully.
This incident shows Bhagavan's equal love and solicitude for human beings and animals alike. The care and compassion he had for living beings was unsurpassed.The manner of Jacky's death is interesting. It was a few weeks before the Pongal festival of 1933 that Jacky fell ill. He was very sick and Bhagavan arranged a soft bed for him, attending to his needs. Jacky refused to take any solid food and was fed only milk. He never left the presence of Bhagavan after falling sick. Jacky gradually grew weaker and his body emitted a very bad smell. But this made no difference to Bhagavan. He would take Jacky in his arms and caress him lovingly. Jacky died peacefully in Bhagavan's arms. Although Jacky's death could have come any time, he survived till the festival of Pongal was over. The parallel between Jacky's death and that of Bhishma, the grand old warrior of Mahabharata, was not missed by Bhagavan. With the death of Jacky, Kamala's lineage came to an end. Jacky was buried in the Ashram precincts near the samadhis of Valli the deer and the blessed crow. A small monument was built over Jacky's Samadhi.