Ramana Maharshi Devotee Annamalai Swami
December 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
(Extracted from ‘Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi’)
Annamalai Swami (1906-1995) since his childhood had a natural inclination towards spirituality. He came to Sri Ramana in 1928 and got a job with the Ashram. After being closely involved in many construction projects for ten years under direct supervision of Sri Ramana, he shifted to Palakottu near the Ashram to live alone and meditate.
In 1928, a wandering sadhu gave me a copy of Upadesa Undiyar by Sri Ramana. It contained a photo of the Maharshi. As soon as I saw the photo I had the feeling that this was my Guru. Simultaneously, an intense desire arose within me to go and see him.
That night I had a dream in which I saw the Maharshi walking from the lower slopes of the hill towards the Ashram. Next morning I decided to go and have his darshan . Having arrived at about 1 p.m., when I approached the hall, a part of the dream I had repeated itself in real life. I saw Bhagavan walk down the hill as I had seen in the dream. When I sat down and Bhagavan gazed at me in silence for about 10-15 minutes, I had a great feeling of physical relief and relaxation. It was like immersing myself in a cool pool after being in the hot sun. I asked for permission to stay, which was granted and I got a job as Bhagavan’s attendant. At that time Madhava Swami was doing the job by himself.
About ten days after my arrival I asked Bhagavan how I could attain Self-realisation? He replied, “If you give up identifying with the body and meditate on the Self,you can attain Self-realisation.” As I was pondering over these remarks, Bhagavan surprised me by saying,”I was waiting for you. I was wondering when you would come.” As a new comer I was too afraid to ask him how he knew, or how long he had been waiting. But I was delighted to hear him speak like this because it seemed to indicate that it was my destiny to stay with him.
A few days later I asked, “Scientists have invented and produced the aircraft which can travel at great speeds in the sky. Why do you not give us a spiritual aircraft in which we can quickly and easily cross over the sea of samsara?” Bhagavan replied, “The path of self-enquiry is the aircraft you need. It is direct, fast,and easy to use. You are already travelling very quickly towards realisation. It is only because of your mind that it seems that there is no movement.” In the years that followed, I had many spiritual talks with Bhagavan but his basic message never changed. It was always: “Do self-enquiry, stop identifying with the body and try to be aware of the Self, which is your real nature.”
When I first came to the Ashram there were still some leopards in the area. They rarely came into the Ashram but at night they frequented the place where Bhagavan used to urinate. Once when a leopard appeared he was not in the least afraid. He just looked at the leopard and said, ‘Poda’ [Go away!] and the leopard walked away.
Soon after I came I was given a new name by Bhagavan. My original name was Sellaperumal. One day Bhagavan mentioned that I reminded him of Annamalai Swami, who had been his attendant at the Skandasram. And within a few days my new identity got established.
When I had been an attendant for about two weeks,the Collector of Vellore, who came for Bhagavan’s darshan , brought a large plate of sweets, which I was to distribute to everyone in the Ashram. While I was distributing the sweets outside the hall I went to a place where no one could see me and secretly helped myself to about double the quantity that I was serving to others. When I went back to the hall and kept the empty plate under Bhagavan’s sofa, he looked at me and said, “Did you take twice as much as everyone else?” I was shocked because I was sure that no one had seen me do it. This incident made me realise that it was impossible to hide anything from Bhagavan.
After serving as an attendant for a month, Bhagavan asked me to supervise construction work within the Ashram. My big assignment was supervising the construction of the cowshed. The problem was of funds, which came almost under miraculous circumstances.
The editor of The Sunday Times, Madras, published a long complimentary article about Bhagavan after he had his darshan . This article came to the attention of a prince in North India, who was much impressed by Bhagavan. Sometime later, the prince went for a tiger hunt. He managed to track down the tiger but when he raised his rifle to shoot, he felt paralysed by a wave of fear. Suddenly he remembered about Bhagavan and prayed saying, “If successful, I will not only send you Rs.1000, but also donate the head and skin of the tiger.” The paralysis left him and he killed the tiger and saved his own life in the process, as the tiger was within attacking distance.
Two days after all the quarrels about the size of the cowshed, the postman appeared with Rs. 1,000. Our finances were always in a precarious position but we never experienced any real financial crisis. While the work was going on, enough donations would come to cover all costs.
Bhagavan took a keen interest in the construction work, guiding me at all stages of the work. In the evening, when I went to him with my daily report, he would tell me the work to be done the following day. For any difficult jobs he would even explain how to go about it.
In the 1930s Bhagavan alone decided when and where the buildings should be built, on what scale and what material be used. He drew up the plans for Ashram buildings, and told me what to do. If instructions were complicated he would sometimes sketch a few lines on a piece of paper to clarify or illustrate what he was saying. When he gave me plans he would always say that it was only a suggestion. He never presumed to give me orders.
Bhagavan himself wrote in Tamil ‘Pakasalai’ in big letters on a piece of paper. These along with the year ‘1938’ and ‘Sri Ramanasramam’ in devanagari script, appear today on the top of the eastern wall of the dining hall.
Bhagavan would frequently come out to see what we were doing. He bombarded us with advice and instructions and would occasionally join in the work himself. But he would say, “I am not connected with any of the activities here. I just witness all that happens”. We would start projects when no money was available to pay, happily ignoring all predictions of imminent financial doom made by the sarvadhikari. Bhagavan never asked anyone for money and he forbade the sarvadhikari from asking for donations. Yet somehow enough donations came to complete every building.
Once when Bhagavan was very sick, Maurice Frydman gave Rs. 1,000 to the sarvadhikari for buying fruits for Bhagavan. Knowing that Bhagavan would not eat fruits unless everyone else was given an equal share, he avoided use of the money for the purpose. Some months later, Frydman complained to Bhagavan that his donation had not been properly spent. Bhagavan said rather angrily, “When you give something you should regard the matter as closed. Why use this gift to further your ego?”
Annamalai Swami moved to Palakottu (a colony abutting the Ashram) in 1938. Till the end of his life in 1995, he lived peacefully and silently in his little ashram. He also provided spiritual guidance to seekers who wanted his help and guidance.
Sri Annamalai Swami’s diary entry dated 04.06.1939:-
On 4th June 1939, I found in Arunachalam, a beautiful Arunachalam.
That is Sri Ramana Giri. I decided that to circumambulate this
Ramana Giri alone shall confer me liberation. Hence I am circumambulating this Ramana Giri from this night. There is pradakshina route for this as a royal path around Sri Ramanasramam.
Those who have understood the inner purport of this Ramana Giri
alone can understand the inner purport of Arunachalam. What is
special about this Ramana Giri. Here, Bhagavan Ramana is giving
silent upadesa as Sri Dakshinamurty. Mother Azhagamma the power of Grace is having Her temple as Sri Matrubhuteswara. Jnana Ganga is always there, swelling. The goddess of wealth is dancing. Saraswati is singing Ramana Gitam. The crowds of holy cows are
happily standing. The Brahmins are chanting Vedas. Anna Lakshmi [goddess of food] is taking care of all the devotees. The visiting devotees always call other devotees to come here. Siddhas are in the guise of servants and help you in everything. The Jnanis welcome you. The gods of silence prostrate His flower like feet. The crowds of Rajas come and prostrate before this great Brahmin. Sri Ramana Bhagavan, who is all these, is shining in all glory as the summit of the Hill.
There are people who are night-blind. They do not know this
Ramana Giri. They talk ill about Him and eat the dust and die.
Oh, Oh, what to do? O Ramana Giri, please open the eyes
of these night blind. I seek only your eyes of Grace. Like Vinayaka got the fruit of mango by circumambulating Siva Parvati, I am circumambulating this Ramana Giri everynight and get the mango fruit. People like me are sure to get this fruit of Grace, if they do like me. This is the Truth.
Entry dated 18.01.1939 from Sri Annamalai Swami’s diary:
On this morning, when Sri Bhagavan went for a stroll to the Hill,
I also accompanied Him. He had on the finger of His left hand
and also on the finger of right leg, some plasters. I asked Him:
“Swami, has some knife cut You?” Sri Bhagavan answered with a
smile: “No, Only my hand went to the knife and my leg went to the
stone!” I laughed.
On some day, I asked Bhagavan: “I am getting stomach pain often… [hoping that He would prescribe some medicine]”
Sri Bhagavan replied: “What to do? This body is itself a big disease. One has to be still to cure this. All other diseases will
then just go. You are telling me. To whom can I tell my disease?”
[Source: Sri Ramana Ninaivaugal, Tamizh, Sri Annmalai Swami Asramam, Palakottu, 1995.]
Sri Annamalai Swami’s diary entry, [date – not known]
Once I asked Sri Bhagavan:
“Some people though they are close to You and do a lot of service,
are going in the wrong path. Why?”
Sri Bhagavan said:
What to do? Jaya and Vijaya were the guardian angels of Sri
Vishnu in Vaikuntam. Have they not due to their ego, spoiled
themselves and taken birth as Hiranya and Hiranyakshaka?
[Source: Sri Ramana Ninaivugal, Tamizh, Sri Annamalai Swami
Asramam, Palakottu. 1995 – [reprint not available] ]
Diary entry of Sri Annamalai Swami:-
On 03.01.1939, one devotee asked Sri Bhagavan: Since I do
have a lot of other work, I am forgetting to do meditation often.
If I forget like this, how can I progress?
Sri Bhagavan replied:
It does not matter. Jnanam will not be achieved on a single day.
The samskaras will leave you only in course of time. Today at
4.00 a.m. we think that we have not done meditation. Tomorrow
at 3.30 a.m. the memory will come. On the third day, we will
get interest in meditation at 3.00 a.m. Why do you think that
you have not done the meditation or why do you think that you
have done work and forgot the meditation? If you leave the thoughts that I have done or I have not done, then all acts will
end as meditation. Then one can never leave meditation. The
meditation also will not leave us. This perennial state of meditation is Sahaja Samadhi.
The same devotee asked a second question:
“Could I have done enough punyas [merrits] in my previous birth?”
Sri Bhagavan’s reply:
“Aha! If punyas had not been there, will such thoughts arise?”
From Annamalai Swami’s diary entry:
On 07.11.1938, when I went with Sri Bhagavan to the Hill for a stroll,
I asked Him:
“How to avoid sleep while doing meditation?”
Sri Bhagavan’s reply:
Those who are ,meditating regularly, should not do heavy physical work. There should not be too heavy eating and filling the stomach
full. If the stomach is totally empty, then too it will be difficult.
The strings of Veena should not be tightened too much. The strings should also not be loosened too much. The body should also be
kept like that. Sleep is also to be regulated in the same way. Divide the night time into 3 portions. One should sleep only for
the one third of the night. That is, one can go to sleep by 10 am
and wake up at 2 am. One should never sleep during day time.
There is another method also. As you feel sleepy, you should go to sleep. As wakefulness comes, one should wake up. Never think,
that I have woken up, or I have slept.
He then quoted the following song from Devi Kalottaram:
Verse No. 33:
Due to sleep and due to thoughts the mind always loses its sharpness, its foolishness increases, and it goes to ruin. Awakening the mind with effort, and without allowing it to wander, establish it in the state of Self. Persevere in this effort by fixing the mind again
and again in its natural state.
[Source: Sri Ramana Ninaivugal, Tamizh, Sri Annamalai Swami
Asramam, Palakottu, 1995 [reprint not available]
From Sri Annamalai Swami’s diary:
On 26.01.1939, some devotees asked Sri Bhagavan:
A Jnani confers anugraha only for some, and towards some others,
he gets angry. Why? Cannot a Jnani set right everyone in life?
What then is the work of a Jnani?
Sri Bhagavan said:
That is because the sadhakas are of different levels of maturity
and they carry difterent baggages of prarabdha karmas.
He then quoted the following verses from Kaivalya Navaneetam:
Disciple: ” O Master! who are Bliss incarnate! how is it that God
who is impartial, advances a few and degrades others?”
Master: “He is like the father who encourages his sons who are in the right way, and frowns on the other sons are in the wrong way. Know it to be mercy to punish the erring and turn them to be righteous.
” O Son, whose fetters of worldly life are broken! The celestial
tree, Fire and Water, protect those who seek them, by fulfilling their desires, keeping them warm and quenching their thirst. So also
Iswara is kind to His devotees and not so to others. Now think
well and judge whose fault it is.”
Master: “My son, the jivas are unlimited in number, capacity and kind, and their actions also are similarly unlimited. In three sections, the beneficent Vedas prescribe according to the aptitudes
of seekers, with preliminary views, succeeded by final conclusions,
like flowers followed by fruits.
Those fools head for disaster who in their ignorance attribute to
God the six evils, which are of their own making, but the wise
will gain untainted deliverance who recognize the same evils
to be of their own making and not God’s.
My good boy, hear me further: The activities of the sage are solely
for the uplift of the world. He does not stand to lose or gain anything. The Almighty who is only the store of grace for the world,
is not affected by the merit or demerits of the creation etc.,
[Source: Sri Ramana Ninaivugal, Tamizh, Sri Annmalai Swami
Asramam, Palakottu, 1995. Kaivalya Navaneetam – English Translation – Sri Ramanananda Saraswati, Sri Ramanasramam,
Entry dated 02.08.1939 from Sri Annamalai Swami’s diary. [Source:
Sri Ramana Ninaivugal, Tamizh, Sri Annamalai Swami Asramam, Palakottu. 1995 [re print available].
I asked Sri Bhagavan, “If a man attains Jnanam, it is said there is
none of the three karmas for him,” You have said. But Kaivalya
Navaneetam says Jnani will experience the prarabdha karma. Why
is it so?
Sri Bhagavan said: Since Prarabdha has been levied, even before
a man attains Jnanam, it is said so. But this experience of prarabdha by a Jnani appears so due to following examples:
a. If an arrow is sent from the bow thinking that there is a tiger,
and if there is only a cow, still the cow gets injured by the arrow
though the hunter feels sorry for it.
b. The electric fan, even after it is switched off, revolves for some time.
c. The burnt rope continues to appear as rope, though it is no longer useful for tying anything.
d. Even the tree that has been cut off appears as a green live tree but it is not so.
e. The fried grains are also grains. But these are not useful for
As given in the five examples, there is prarabdha for a Jnani too.
But this prarabdha is not there in the outlook of a Jnani. It is there only from the outlook of witnesses and they feel that Jnani is also
Entry dated 08.08.1939 from Sri Annamalai Swami’s Sri Ramana
Ninaivugal, Sri Annamalai Swami’s Asramam, Palakottu, 1995.
Questions and answers for a spiritually mature American lady:
Question: What is the tattvam [goal] that I should attain. [She
was full of meek surrender while questioning].
Sri Bhagavan: What we should attain and what is loved by everyone
is only the endless Sukam [bliss]. We are searching for it through
different ways. But it is not to be attained anew. This Sukam is always our experience. And it is our true nature and it is nothing but
the experience of “I-I”. This is within us only. We are experiencing it always. Due to ignorance, we are all searching for it outside and
without rest we are running here and there. It is like some one telling that he has no tongue. [How can a tongue less person say
that he has no tongue?}
Question: Why then there are different ways and means?
Sri Bhagavan: All the implements [ways and means] are only to leave the thought. Leaving the Swarupam within, thinking that
“I am the body” is the first thought and that is maya’s first salvo.
[moola avidya]. This single thought spreads as many thousands of thoughts. And these hide your Swarupam since a long time. If these thoughts are removed, the Swarupam, one’s own Real Nature will shine gloriously. Then there is only Brahmananda and nothing else.
Question: Right now without the thought that I am the body, I am
peaceful. Is it the true state?
Sri Bhagavan: Yes. If this Shanti [Peace] does not get disturbed,
after sometime, it only means that the thoughts have not left you
Question: How these other thoughts be removed?
Sri Bhagavan: You do the inquiry as to whom this [the thought I am
the body] and with the strengthening of this Vichara [inquiry] it shall go.
From the diary of Sri Annamalai Swami, [Sri Ramana Ninaivugal]:
Next day the American lady had again some doubt. She came to
Bhagavan and asked some more questions.
Question: How to see the God? What is the way?
Sri Bhagavan: Where to see the god? First of all, can you see yourself? If you can see yourself, then you can see God too.
Can anyone see his own eyes? Just because, he cannot see his eyes, can he say that there are no eyes? In the same way one
cannot ‘see’ God. One cannot fail seeing god also. The way to see the God is only to vanquish the thought that God is different from you. To treat God as someone different is the biggest surprise in the world! There is no surprise equal to this.
There is a story in Chandogya Upanishad. A man in his house is
sleeping on a cot, with good beddings and comforts. He dreams,
In the dream, some one comes to him, throws some magic powder on his nose and make him faint. Then this sleeping person is left in a jungle with his eyes and hands tied. This person does not know
how to return home. He walks on the stones and thorns, and falls into a pit and weeps. One angel came and asked him: O child,
why are you weeping like this? Who are you? Where from you came? What is your name and town? The person replies his name, town and other details and adds that someone came made him faint through magic powder, tied his eyes and hands and left him in the jungle. The angel removed his ties and then showed the way to reach his town. He followed the instructions, reached his town and then his home and entered it. He saw the inner latches of the doors. The door had not been opened at all. He finds himself in the bed. He never went anywhere, nor did he return from the jungle.
He realized that all these miseries came because of his deluded
As you see the avasthas of this person in the story, so is the case
of you to see God, and where to search for him. How to attain him. To brush away the thought that one should see god to remain in one’s own real nature is the real attainment.
Diary entry of Sri Annamalai Swami [date not known]:
On 07.01.1938, in the night at about 7.30 two English ladies, Mme. Shapton and Mme. Betman [spelling?] came with their friends and
stayed in the Asramam for some days. They, while coming to have
darshan of Sri Bhagavan, asked Him: “Sri Bhagavan also is like us.
He eats like us. He speaks like us. He is also taking medicine for
tooth ache. Then, what is the difference between Sri Bhagavan and
us, we do not know.”
Sri Bhagavan explained the difference between Jnanis and Ajnanis
with some stories:
1. A small boy asked his mother for giving food, before he went to sleep. The mother told the boy, “Please wait, the rice is being cooked.”. Before the food was ready, the boy went to sleep. The mother woke up the boy and fed him saying: “See, this is rice and dhal, this is rice and rasam, this is rice and buttermilk.” The boy
took 30 minutes and finished eating. Then he went to sleep again.
Everyone in the family knows this. But, the boy, after he woke up
in the morning, asked his mother: “Amma, why did you not give me food last night?” Jnani is also like that.
2. Jnani is like keeping away his mind on some other matter and listening to a discourse.
3. Jnani is like a sleeping person in a moving train.
4. Two people slept in the same hall. One dreamed that both of them were running around jungles and meadows and suffering. The other slept nicely. But the other one who dreamed thought that the other man also suffered like him in the jungles. This is same as the states of a Jnani and an Ajnani.
5. Swami Ramatirtha was living on the first floor of his house and was doing japa, Sivoham, Sivoham. At the time, one Ajnani came to him: “You jump from this first floor and then I shall understand the
Truth behind your japa. Swami Rama Tirthar asked that Ajnani:
“Where is up and where is down?” In other words, a Jnani sees every one else as Jnani. The Ajnani sees every one else as Ajnani.
6. Where Ajnani is sleeping, the Jnani is keeping awake. Where
the Jnani is sleeping, the Ajnani is keeping awake.
7. In a cinema show, the Jnani sees only the screen, the substratum. The Ajnani sees only the names and forms in the
Sri Bhagavan took a quite a good time, in telling the stories.
The English ladies listened to Him and thanked Him and then left.
[Source: Sri Ramana Ninaivugal. Tamizh. Sri Annamalai Swami
Asramam, Palakottu, 1995. no reprint available.]