SRI BHAGAVAN'S presence and teachings gave hope and strength to different classes of seekers at different levels. Thus the teachings were not limited to those who took to pure enquiry as is sometimes assumed. Bhagavan as the Jnani is on a level higher than that of a spiritual master and therefore it followed that on every path one received help and guidance on that very path and no attempt at changing one's chosen line was needed.
An important teaching of his was that intensity of practice and one-pointedness on any path will be fruitful. Stotra, japa, dhyana and vichara are ascending stages of sadhana. While confirming this Bhagavan was also clear that this did not mean that all stages were necessarily to be gone through by all. Certainly there were exceptions as for example in the case of the four great Tamil saints who sang the praises of Lord Siva. With them it was an achievement of akhandakara vritti (unbroken experience of awareness) brought about by constant remembrance of the Name (' Never was there a moment when I did not think of You ! ' ) . In that achievement where was the need for vichara ? Its result was already there.
Dandapani Swami once pleaded with Sri Bhagavan to give him some upadesa. It was a Sivarathri Day. The devotee affirmed he had no practice to his credit. But Bhagavan persistently asked him whether he had not done any little practice of any kind. At last the fact emerged that he used to write the Rama Koti (a crore of Rama Nama). Sri Bhagavan instructed him to do it more and more.
One doubt that often assails people is the relative superiority of mantras. Sri Bhagavan explained that the choice of a particular mantra purely depended upon one's samskara. There is no superiority or inferiority in the mantras themselves. In the choice of the mantra as in other things it was characteristic of Sri Bhagavan to encourage one in a path already chosen so that it acted like a lever resulting in more progress. A perfect illustration of the effect of samskaras was the Maha Nirvana of Bhagavan's Mother. In her last moments, under the protective care of Bhagavan, groups of people started altogether different chants not prompted by anyone. A Punjabi Brahmachari and Dandapani Swami chanted Ram Nam aloud. Nayana, Sundaresa Iyer and Raju Sastry chanted the Vedas. Myself and Perumalswami chanted the Aksharamanamalai. Each kind of chant reflected clearly the samskara of the particular individual!
In olden days when we had the benefit of receiving personal instructions from Sri Bhagavan one of them was to get into meditation before going to sleep. Thus sleep overtook one as a natural sequel to fatigue and was not induced or preceded by lying down. Also the first thing in the morning, immediately on getting up from bed was to go into meditation. This ensured a serenity of mind and also a feeling of tirelessness throughout the day. The state of mind immediately before sleep is resumed on waking.
Par ay ana (recitation), japa, dhyana and vichara represent usually different modes of sadhana. But it may not be possible for a sadhaka to be engaged in any one of these continuously. So Sri Bhagavan's advice was to alternatively try all the four and ensure continued sadhana (which would be otherwise impossible). Thus if one is tired of dhyana one can do japa, following it up with parayana and so on. My practice was to recite slokas on my walk to Skandashram in the mornings. One day Bhagavan happened to see me and asked what I was doing. When I told him about my parayana he encouraged it and said it was a good way to simultaneously go through one's routine and also do something towards controlling the mind.
Asked on one occasion how it was that ' Self Knowledge is easy, the easiest thing there is ' (Bhagavan's poem Self Knowledge is here referred to) while others said it was the most difficult thing there was, and whether the individual can get it so easily and unaided, Bhagavan seemed to sympathise and pointed out the words, ' Grace is needed most', in the same poem. He said it was the key to understanding the poem.
Sri Bhagavan stressed the importance of developing good tendencies likening it to sowing a ripe seed. A ripe seed thrown carelessly on rocky soil will sprout and grow be it even after a thousand years. It will never go to waste. Likewise, good tendencies.
Lastly a word about the different ways in which the grace of a master works. The working of grace is comparable to the ways of the fish, tortoise and birds in rearing their offspring. The look of the fish is sufficient to bring life to the eggs. The tortoise stays at some distance and by the power of its presence as well as its intense concentration life is induced in the young one. Birds sit right on top of the eggs and hatch them using the warmth of their own body. Sri Bhagavan's grace worked like the look of the fish, the most powerful of the three. The effect was tremendous as many experienced.
A devotee once complained that Sri Bhagavan gave the highest teaching to all irrespective of their limitations. He was referring to the necessity of observing certain rules prescribed for a traditional guru. In fact the devotee offered to teach the sadhakas the preliminaries. (Certain traditional rules require masters to teach the truth in stages and in a definite order.) Sri Bhagavan replied that doing things on the sly was foreign to him. What mattered was Pure Truth !