"When I first saw Bhagavan, I saw in him something quite arresting, which clearly distinguished him from all others I had seen. He seemed to live apart from the physical frame, quite detached from it. His look and smile had a remarkable spiritual charm. When he spoke, the words seemed to come out of an abyss. One could see immaculate purity and non-attachment in him and his movements. I sensed something very refined, lofty and sacred about him. In his vicinity the mind's dist
- Viswanatha Swami
"As children our attitude to Bhagavan was perhaps slightly different from that of the adults. We of course knew that He was God and a wonderful person to be near - truly a magical feeling, but we
accepted this quite naturally and without a feeling of awe. However sometimes even children can be awed:
One of these memories i have is rather strange because to this day i recall my amazement and yet nothing actually happened at all. A lady came to Tiruvannamalai from North India;
in those days all 'foreigners' whether they were North Indians or Norwegians were sent to our home. I was about ten years old at the time and not an especially sensitive child but even i could
not bear to stay in the room with her as she was so tense, nervous and unhappy that it made me most uneasy. Her story was that she had married a man she loved very much although her parents had
not approved as he was of a different caste - however they had overcome all the opposition and they went to the seaside somewhere for their honeymoon. They had a week of great happiness until one
day he was killed by a shark right in front of her eyes. All this had happened about 2 years earlier and the distraught widow was traveling through India, going to various ashrams and seeing
various holy men. She had a list of questions which she asked at each place - all more or less a demand why such a thing should happen if there was a God of Justice and so on. She was an unhappy
and aggressively angry lady and my heart sank when my mother asked me to show her the way to the hall where Bhagavan sat.. I led in silence and she followed me, i showed her the hall and went off
to play. A while later i realised it was lunch time and i went to collect her and bring her home - most reluctantly.
I will never, never forget the change that had come over her in just an hour or so. She was calm and relaxed and peaceful and happy! I was so awed and intrigued that i hung around anxiously waiting for my mother to ask her what Bhagavan had said to her. Whatever it was it must have been words of the greatest wisdom and power to have such an effect. Eventually my mother did ask and the lady answered that she had gone into the hall and sat down and Bhagavan had just looked at her - just looked -with such infinite compassion that she felt that her questions were of no importance any more. She sat there and felt the peace and no word was spoken ...." Katya Osborne
Bhagavan was a very beautiful person; he shone with a visible light or aura. He had the most delicate hands I have ever seen with which alone he could express himself, one might almost say talk.
His features were regular and the wonder of his eyes was famous. His forehead was high and the dome of his head the highest I have ever seen. As this in India is known as the dome of Wisdom it
was only natural that it should be so. His body was well formed and of only medium height, but this was not apparent as his personality was so dominant that one looked upon him as tall. He had a
great sense of humour and when talking a smile was never far from his face. He had many jokes in his repertoire and was a magnificent actor; he would always dramatize the protagonists of any
story he related. When the recital was very pathetic he would be filled with emotion and unable to proceed. When people came to him with their family stories he would laugh with the happy and at
times shed tears with the bereaved. In this way he seemed to reciprocate the emotions of others. He never raised his voice and if he did occasionally seem angry there was no sign of it on the
surface of his Peace. Talk to him immediately afterwards and he would answer calmly and quite undisturbed.
- A Sadhu’s Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi
Bhagavan never liked people to complain and talk ill of others and would take the side of the accused party. On one occasion a rich lady-devotee adopted an outcast boy, but after some time he disappeared with some of her jewellery. When she complained to Bhagavan, He said: 'What a pity! Your jewels made you lose your boy!' - Roda McIver
Kanakamma, who left her body last year after staying all her adult life with Bhagavan and later at the ashram related this touching incident:
It happened during Sri Bhagavan's serious illness when He was laid up in the Nirvana Room. Bhagavan's sister, Alamelu Ammal, very hesitantly went near Him and pleaded with Him thus: "Bhagavan! Once when you were in Virupaksha Cave, while trying to move a big rock your hand was caught under it and when the hand was taken out one of the fingers was dislocated and found hanging down limp. Vasudeva Shastri who noticed it, was alarmed and started crying aloud. You calmed him saying: 'Why do cry? Nothing has happened.' Then with the other hand you placed the drooping finger back in its place and lo! it regained its proper position. No trace of any mishap could be noticed. Likewise, why don't you now touch this painful cancer on you left arm with your 'golden' right hand, Bhagavan? It will be cured if you will do it. All our anxieties will be at an end. Please bless us now by turning your mind to the arm and curing it."
Bhagavan looked at his sister intently with love and compassion and replied:
"Yes, Yes! I have a body and that has an arm. The arm has a disease and so I must apply 'my mind' to it to cure it. But where is a 'mind' to do all this?"
Bhagavan told me (Rangan, a former class-mate) that when he stayed in Pavalakundru (little hill-top in front of Arunachala) ... he was never aware of the passage of time. Sometimes, he said, when his awareness of the world returned, he woul
In the 1940s my wife and I attended the consecration-festival of the mother's temple. At the time she was suffering from acute pain in her back.
The ashram doctor told us, 'I will give her an injection but I am not sure if the problem can be cured.'
Although the doctor had advised her to lay down she still decided to go and sit with Bhagavan instead. While she was sitting before him, she had some kind of fit and collapsed. We took her away and made her lie down in a friend's house. She was so ill, many people in the ashram were afraid that she would die. Fortunately, she made a speedy recovery, so much so that she was able to come to the ashram the following morning.
Bhagavan asked me, 'How is Chellamma? I do not think she is in pain anymore.'
As he was saying this, he waved his hands in the air. From then on, my wife never had any spinal pain again.
My family disasters continued when my second son was bitten by a snake. His vision became blurred and his body went blue. Ha had been bitten in a village were no medicine or antidote was available. We put him under Bhagavan's photo and hoped for the best.
Early the following morning he opened his eyes and said, 'Father, Bhagavan came to me and patted my leg.'
'Did he?' I said with great relief. 'Then you will live.'
On the following day I took him to a hospital in Madurai. The doctors there saw him and predicted that he would probably die. Even if he lived, they said, his leg would have to be amputated.
I wrote to Bhagavan immediately. In his reply (Bhagavan did never write himself but gave hints to the office staff) Bhagavan assured me that he would never forsake those who had faith in him. He added that the boy would soon become well. As Bhagavan predicted, the boy soon became normal.
The most serious problem occurred when my eldest daughter became mentally unbalanced and fell into a well. We searched the whole town for her before it occurred to us to look down the well. When we first inspected it we could not see her body. It was only when my wife insisted that we make a thorough search that we looked more carefully and found her. We brought her up to the surface, but she seemed already dead. Seeing that there was no life in her, my wife immediately ran into the house and prayed before Bhagavan's photo.
'Bhagavan, if it is true that we are all safe and sound by your grace alone, may my daughter breathe again!
After saying this, she applied vibhuti to the lifeless body. Almost at once our daughter started to breathe again.
In the afternoon Khanna’s wife appealed to Bhagavan in writing: “I am not learned in the scriptures and I find the method of Self-enquiry too hard for me. I am a woman with seven children and a lot of household cares, and it leaves me little time for meditation. I request Bhagavan to give me some simpler and easier method.”
Bhagavan: No learning or knowledge of scriptures is necessary to know the Self, as no man requires a mirror to see himself. All knowledge is requi
4. Q.: Is the state of `being still' a state involving effort or
Sri Ramana: It is not an effortless state of indolence. All mundane activities which are ordinarily called effort are performed with the aid of a portion of the mind and with frequent breaks. But the act of communion with the Self or
remaining still inwardly is intense activity which is performed
with the entire mind and without break.
Maya (delusion or ignorance) which cannot be destroyed
by any other act is completely destroyed by this intense activity which is called `silence' (mauna).
-Sri Ramana Maharshi in 'Spiritual Instruction'
A young man from Colombo asked Bhagavan, “J. Krishnamurti teaches the method of effortless and choiceless awareness as distinct from that of deliberate concentration. Would Sri Bhagavan be pleased to explain how best to practise meditation and what form the object of meditation should take?”
Bhagavan: Effortless and choiceless awareness is our real nature. If we can attain it or be in that state, it is all right. But one cannot reach it without effort, the e
M.: Guru is only one. He is not physical. So long as there is weakness the support of strength is needed.
D.: J. Krishnamurti says, “No Guru is necessary?”
M.: How did he know it? One can say so after realising but not before.
D.: You have gained this state by great effort. What shall we poor souls do?
M.: We are in our Self. We are not in the world.
Swami Yogananda asked Bhagavan in 1935:
How is the spiritual uplift of the people to be effected? What are the instructions to be given them?
M.: They differ according to the temperaments of the individuals and according to the spiritual ripeness of their minds. There cannot be any instruction en masse.
D.: Why does God permit suffering in the world? Should He not with His omnipotence do away with it at one stroke and ordain the universal realisation of God?
M.: Suffering is the way for Realisation of God.
D.: Should He not ordain differently?
M.: It is the way.
D.: Are Yoga, religion, etc., antidotes to suffering?
M.: They help you to overcome suffering.
D.: Why should there be suffering?
M.: Who suffers? What is suffering?
No answer! Finally the Yogi rose up, prayed for Sri Bhagavan’s blessings for his own work and expressed great regret for his hasty return. He looked very sincere and devoted and even emotional.
My own experiences and the events I witnessed had convinced me that Bhagavan was a very great being, but at the same time, the fact that we had been friends who had played together as children
made it easy for me to talk to him and be with him. I didn't have that feeling of reverential awe that left many visitors tongue-tied in his presence. And since I had known Bhagavan from the
earliest days, we occasionally talked about our childhood together.
Once, when we were reminiscing, Bhagavan asked me, 'Do you remember, Rangan, that day when I urinated on the idol of Karupama Swami? You threatened to tell my father about it. I begged you not to tell him because i knew my father would beat me for it.'
'I remember it very well,' I answered. 'Nowadays, when I remember it, I feel that Karupama Swami must have felt as happy as he would if he had been given a bath of Ganges water.'
Akhilandamma was a very devoted and mature seeker:
Once, while Bhagavan was at Skandashram, I went up the hill with all the required foodstuffs to serve a bhiksha. I could not see Bhagavan, so I asked, where he was. Appadurai Swami told me, 'Today is the day when Bhagavan has his shave, so please wait.' He also added, 'When Bhagavan comes, request him to impart some upadesa to you. Since it is a full moon day, it will be very auspicious.'
By inclination I am a person who has neither the desire nor the capacity to make such a request. To see Bhagavan, to think of him and to do service to him - these alone were sufficient for my happiness. ... However, for some reason, on that particular day, I felt like following this suggestion of Appadurai.
When the shaving was finished, Bhagavan came and sat near us. While he was sitting there, I approached him, bowed, stood up and said, 'Bhagavan, kindly tell me something.'Bhagavan looked at me and asked, 'About what am I to tell you?'
I was both puzzled and nonplussed. A mixture of fear and devotion along with an eagerness to hear Bhagavan's gracious words welled up within me, rendering me incapable of speech. I just stood there mutely.Bhagavan understood my predicament. No one can hide anything from him. He can understand the state of mind of anyone who approaches him, merely by looking at him.On this occasion he looked at me graciously and said,
'Unnai vidamal iru.' 'Be without leaving yourself.'
I could not comprehend the meaning of this high-level upadesa, and had no idea how to practice it, but as soon as the words came out of Bhagavan's mouth I felt an immense satisfaction and a wonderful effulgence in my mind. These gracious words welled up in my mind again and again like the rising of the tides. The feeling they produced gave me an indescribable happiness. I stood there delighting myself in the feelings produced by this one phrase. Even today, the sound of that upadesa rings in my ears and bestows immense peace on me. How is it possible to describe Bhagavan's grace?' from: 'The Power of the Presence'
I have, in search of my father and in obedience to His command, started from here. THIS is only embarking on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore none need grieve over this affair. To trace
THIS out, no money need be spent.
Your college fee has not been paid. Rupees two are enclosed herewith.
It was sheer habit that the young Venkataraman started with 'I'. In the course of the note he called himself, 'this'. He never signed any letter or document anymore. He did accept the many different names that were given to him during his life. But when asked he never considered any of them as his actual one.
Bhagavan sometimes said that Self-knowledge, that is, attaining the state of the jnani, is an easy thing because we are already the Self and consequently are already realized. At other times he would admit that attaining such a state is very difficult. To illustrate the later attitude i can offer the following exchange. A woman came and had Bhagavan's darshan. When she was ready to leave, she asked him, 'Bhagavan, my mind is wandering in many directions. What shall I do?'
Bhagavan advised her, 'Let it go in only on in one direction.'
After she had left, I asked him, 'If that is possible, what more do we want? That is jnana itself, is it not?'
'Well, what am I to do or say?' asked Bhagavan. 'As soon as people come here they want to become jnanis. They think it is quite easy. They do not realize the difficulty in it.'
Conversation with Annamalai Swami
Q.: What is the easiest way to be free of the 'little self'?
Annamalai Swami: Stop identifying with it. If you can convince yourself, 'This little self is not really me,' it will disappear.
Q.: But how to do that?
AS.: The little self is something that only appears to be real. If you understand that it has no real existence it will disappear, leaving behind it the experience of the real and only Self. Understand that it has no real existence and it will stop troubling you.
Consciousness is universal. There is no limitation or 'little self' in it. It is only when we identify with and limit ourselves to the body and the mind that this false sense of self is born. If,
through enquiry, you go to the source of the 'little self', you find that it dissolves into nothingness.
Q.: But I am very accustomed to feel 'I am this 'little self' '. I cannot break this habit merely by thinking 'I am not this 'little self''.
AS.: This 'little self' will only give way to the real Self if you meditate constantly. You cannot wish it away with a few stray thoughts. Try to remember the analogy of the rope which looks like a snake in twilight. If you see the rope as snake the real nature of the rope is hidden from you. If you only see the rope the snake is not there. Not only that - you know that there never was a snake there. (Then) the question of how to kill the snake disappears... If you can understand that this 'little self' never at any time had any existence outside your imagination, you will not be concerned about ways and means of getting rid of it.
Q.: It is all very clear but I feel I need some help. I am not sure that i can generate this conviction by myself.
AS.: The desire for assistance is part of your problem. Don't make the mistake of imagining that there is a goal to be reached or attained. If you think like this you will start looking for methods to practice and people to help you. This just perpetuates the problem you are trying to end. Instead, cultivate the strong awareness, 'I am the Self. I am That. I am Brahman. I am everything.'.. The best way to (stop believing the wrong ideas about yourself) is to replace them with ideas which more accurately reflect the real state of affairs. ...
The Self is always attained, it is always realized; it is not something that you have to seek, reach or discover. Your vasanas and all the wrong ideas you have about yourself are blocking and hiding the experience of the real Self. If you don't identify with these wrong ideas, your Self-nature will not be hidden from you.
- from: 'Living By The Words Of Bhagavan' by David Godman
Q.: You sometimes say that we should avoid company. That is not always possible. If one is working one has to mix with all kinds of people. One can't always avoid them.
Annamalai Swami: In such situations one should take the attitude of someone who is acting in a drama. Outwardly one should do whatever actions are necessary, but inwardly, one should be always aware of the center, the consciousness which makes itself known as the feeling 'I am'.
I say 'avoid bad company' but ultimately bad company is just a part of the mind. There is no bad company in the Self. While you are trying to disentangle yourself from the mind it will be helpful for you to avoid bad company. Whenever that is not possible, make an extra effort to withdraw into the Self. If you can establish yourself there, the currents from other peoples minds cannot affect you. If you do have to mix with unspiritual people, don't make any judgements about them. Don't think 'This a bad person', or 'I don't like this person.' The less you identify with the mind when you are near such people, the better. ...
Be like a big tree. When the wind comes the branches and leaves are shaken but the trunk remains stationary. If you live in the mind you are always being tossed around like the branches and the twigs in a strong wind. The less you identify with the mind, the less movement there is. When you are aware of yourself as consciousness alone, with no trace of the mind being present, there is no movement at all, only unbroken peace and absolute stillness.
Q.: Swami, you often say that we should avoid bad acts.
What exactly do you mean by a 'bad act'?
AS: In a general sense, anything which causes harm to other beings is a bad act. But one could also say that any act that keeps your attention away from the Self is a bad act. Identifying with the body and mind is the primal bad act because it is the source of all other bad acts.
Bhagavan said to two devotees who were competing with one another:
"Whatever effort is made by whichever person, that which is the Reality will always remain. No one, however great can give another person either moksha, liberation, or bandha, bondage.
"It is natural for a person to think that he should be well-known to the people of the world and be praised by them. But if this thought is present one cannot attain true greatness or happiness. God is not interested in those who promote their own claims to greatness. One who is not satisfactory to God is an inferior person, not a great one. If anyone dedicates both his mind and body to God in every possible way, God will make him be famous and praised by people all over the world."
There was one devotee in the ashram at that time who, for me at least, exemplified Bhagavan's teachings on humility and selfless devotion. His name was Viran and he was employed by the ashram to carry water.
In the early days of the ashram there was always a water shortage. At about 4 p.m. every day everyone in the ashram, except for Bhagavan, had to go to the Palakottu tank with a bucket to collect water. We each had to bring ten buckets a day to the main buildings which are about 150 yards away, quite a strenuous activity. ...
Since all these activities still failed to produce enough water to meet all our needs, we engaged Viran to carry water full-time from the Palakottu tank to the ashram. Additionally, he also used to work on various other little jobs that needed to be done in and around the ashram... He was willing to to help any of the resident devotees with their daily chores. If anyone called him to do some work, he would immediately come. No work was too menial for him. He was a very humble man whose main aim in life seemed to be to help other people. If anyone addressed him disrespectfully, because he came from a low caste, Bhagavan would immediately show his disapproval.
'Why do you call him like this?' he would ask. 'If you want him to do any work you should call him with love and affection!'..
Viran's humility was a shining example of Bhagavan's teachings in action.
On many occasions Bhagavan told me, "Become envious of anyone lower than you. You must become very small. In fact you must become nothing. Only a person who is nobody can abide i the Self.
"One who has learned to be inferior will become superior to all ..."
(Annamalai Swami, Living..)
On many occasions while the construction work was on (Annamalai Swami was supervising them) Bhagavan would come and sit on a stone and supervise whatever we were doing.
He used to say; 'When I am outside I am more healthy. That six-feet-long sofa you people make me sit on is just like jail for me.'
Bhagavan often spent hours in our company. When a supervising mood came to him he would only go back to the hall if he were told that some new devotees had come for his darshan.
On these occasions Madhava Swami, who looked after the hall in Bhagavan's absence, would come and tell us that some new people had come.
On one such occasion Bhagavan turned to me and said,
'A new warrant is coming for my arrest. I have to go back to jail.'
Bhagavan always welcomed an opportunity to join in the work. I can give one example from my early days in the ashram. In those days there was nowhere to store the ashram's rice-bags safely. They needed a waterproof platform in case the ground got wet. Bhagavan asked me to make such a platform out of bricks and cement in a small hut which used to be located on the site of the old office (today two extra meditation-rooms are in that place). After I had completed the work I started to smooth the surface with an old brick to make it completely level. Bhagavan selected another brick and joined me in the work. He held it in both hands and started to scrape very vigorously.
I tried to stop him by saying, 'Why is Bhagavan doing this work? I can easily do all this scraping.'
'I am doing it because I need the exercise, replied Bhagavan. 'If I do some work my body will get stronger. I have no appetite at the moment. If I do some work I will get hungry. My gas problem may also go if i do a lot of exercise.'
I didn't try to dissuade him again because it was clear that he was enjoying himself enormously.
Since Bhagavan was usually excluded by us from doing vigorous ashram chores, he kept healthy by going for frequent walks on the hill. In the 1940s he even combined this with a daily program of keep-fit exercises to improve his digestion. He would put his arms above his head, keep his legs straight, bend at the waist and try to touch his toes. He would do this about thirty times every morning. Normally he would do these exercises in a place where people could not see him, but a few times he was spotted by women wood-cutters who roamed the hill in search of firewood.
One of them, after watching Bhagavan's repeated forward bends, remarked, 'Bhagavan has eaten too much food in the ashram. He is trying to vomit it up.'
Another woman with a more fertile imagination disagreed.
'No, these are special exercises. Bhagavan is taking stones from the hill and turning them into gold. He is using the gold to finance the building of the Mother's Temple. How else could he pay for it? This man you see next to him acts as a watchman. He makes sure that no one disturbs Bhagavan while he is making gold. Also he stops other people from stealing it and helps to carry it back to the ashram.'
Annamalai Swami recorded conversations with Bhagavan in the late 1930s.
The following questions were asked by an aristocratic- looking American lady. Bhagavan's answers are a succinct summery of his practical teachings.
Q.: What is the truth that I have to attain? Please explain it and show it to me.
Bhagavan: What we have to attain and what is desired by everyone is endless happiness. Although we seek to attain it in various ways, it is not something to be sought or attained as a new experience. Our real nature is the 'I' feeling which is always experienced by everyone. It is within us and nowhere else. Although we are always experiencing it, our minds are wandering, always seeking it, thinking in ignorance it is something apart from us. This is like a person saying with his own tongue that he has no tongue.