January 8, 2015 Comments Off on Ramana maharishi
SRI RAMANASRAMAM INSERT JANUARY 2015
VOL. 9, NO. 1
January dawns with devotees waiting in eager anticipation of Bhagavan’s 135th Jayanti celebrations, commencing with music in the New Library Auditorium on the evening of the 5th Jaunary.
Early morning Dhannurmasa pujas are underway each day, contributing to an atmosphere of renewed devotion and an intimate encounter with Bhagavan in his Shrine.
This issue of Saranagati concludes the story of Mango Tree Cave, with anecdotes about great devotees who came to see Bhagavan in the early years. It also looks at some of the other interesting figures who inhabited the Hill in those days.
In Sri Bhagavan, The Editorial Team
Mango Tree Cave (part three)
Following Ganapati Muni’s stay, other great souls came to meet Bhagavan at Mango Tree Cave. Mastan Swami, a simple weaver born of a poor Muslim family from Desur, came to Tiruvannamalai with Akhilandamma in 1914. During his first meeting with Bhagavan at Mango Tree Cave, Bhagavan’s gaze, “filled with grace, compassion and steady wisdom”, fell on him and he stood transfixed: “After giving me [his] look, the gate of my Heart [opened…]. I stood [near him] for eight hours, absolutely without fatigue, filled with total absorption and peace.1” Years later reflecting on Mastan, Bhagavan said: “All sorts of beings gravitate towards the presence of a jnani — devas, rishis, Brahmanishtas, siddhas and yogis.[…] Some of these great beings show up in the guise of beggars or madmen, and some of them even manage to appear in the forms
1 Kunjuswami, Mountain Path, 1979, p. 154. See Power of the Presence, vol III, pp. 23-24.
of birds and animals. Among those who show up in a normal human body, and who subsequently stay on and become devotees, there is a huge range: complete beginners to highly advanced souls. The most advanced are ripe fruits, just waiting to fall. One such devotee was Mastan. As soon as he touched the railings of the gate, he would have a paralysing experience of the Self. He would stand rooted to the spot, unable to move for six or seven hours. This happened several times.[…] He was highly spiritual, though outwardly he looked like an ordinary man. He was a kind generous man who always looked for an opportunity to help others. He never showed any self-importance [but] liked to stay in the background, unnoticed.2”
Another notable figure who came to see Bhagavan at Mango Tree Cave was Seshadri Swami, known from his boyhood as the “saint with a golden hand”. His family having given up on ever arranging a marriage for the God-child who, since his earliest youth, only occupied himself with puja and prayer. Born to a family ofDevibhaktasinKanchipuram,theKamakotiVamsa were charged with propagating Sri Vidya worship. Having come to Tiruvannamalai in 1887 when just 17 years old, Seshadri was nine years senior to Bhagavan and ‘adopted’ the young Venkataraman to his care in the Patala Linga days (1896) at Arunachala Temple. But though senior in age and revered by locals for his great devotion and prodigious spiritual gifts, from the beginning Seshadri never doubted the spiritual supremacy of the boy from Tiruchuli.
In 1910 at a time when Seshadri was residing on the Hill just below Bhagavan, a certain Subramania Mudali came to him for help. Seshadri advised him to take up sadhana. When the latter protested that he was too busy with his work, Seshadri said, “You see, my younger brother has a ‘salary’ of Rs.10,000 and I have a salary of Rs.1,000; why shouldn’t you at least try for Rs 100?” By ‘younger brother’ he was referring to young Ramana and by ‘salary’ he meant spiritual advancement. Mudali continuing to show his disinclination, said, “I have no time, Swami”. Seshadri warned him in the sternest terms saying that he would be
2 Viswanatha Swami, Power of the Presence, vol III, p. 24-25,
guilty of Brahma hatya, i.e. the sin of ‘slaying a Brahmana’, if he neglected his own spiritual development. Disturbed by the strong counsel, Mudali went to Bhagavan to find out if it could be true. Bhagavan concurred, “Yes, you can be said to commit murder of Brahman by not realizing that you are Brahman.”
At Mango Tree Cave a couple of years earlier, Vasudeva Sastri witnessed an interesting encounter between Bhagavan and Seshadri. The latter known for his ability to read minds, found that when gazing at Bhagavan, he was unable to discern his thoughts: “It is not clear what this person is thinking.” Bhagavan gave no reply. After a pause Seshadri added, “If one worships Lord Arunachala, He will grant salvation.” Bhagavan asked, “Who is it that worships and who is the worshipped?” Seshadri laughed boisterously, saying, “That is just what is not clear.”3
Other early residents and guests
But while there were remarkable guests at Mango Tree Cave, not all were spiritually advanced and some could in fact be quite a nuisance. There was a certain established economy on the Hill, where swamis would earn their living by dispensing ‘spiritual knowledge’ to visitors and extracting a fee for their services. There was also a hierarchy of prestige according to assumed levels of spiritual attainment. But with the arrival of one who was concerned with neither wealth nor reputation, the pecking order—to the chagrin of some of the residents—was invariably overturned.
M. Balanandam, a prominent character familiar with the Vedas, Gita, Brahma Sutras and versed in numerous languages, was hard-pressed to maintain his elevated status on the Hill once Brahmanaswami took up residence there. Similarly, just adjacent to Mango Tree Cave, was Jada Swami, who had been living on the Hill before Bhagavan’s arrival. Known for his long matted locks, he held elaborate pujas attended by the residents on the Hill. When young Brahmanaswami joined the daily ceremonies, visitors and residents gradually began to take notice of the gracious and illuminating presence of the youngster and did namaskaram before him. Initially this made Jadaswami jealous. But in time, the latter would see how things really stood and came to respect the young sage.
Others assumed their ascendency over Bhagavan and endeavoured to ‘help’ the young swami. Next door to Jada Swami lived Bhagavathar Swami. One day upon returning from the Himalayas, the swami told Bhagavan that he had had a dream in which the Lord commanded him to initiate his ‘child Ramana who was there wasting his time’. When Bhagavathar Swami came to commence the initiation ceremony, Bhagavan said, “You have been told by the Lord in your dream to give mantra initiation to me. Let the same Lord appear to me in my dream and bid me take mantra initiation from you and then we will see.” Bhagavathar Swami realised he had underestimated the young sage and bashfully withdrew.
Other curious figures on the Hill include Milakai Siddhar or Chili Swami who had the daily habit of smearing green chili paste over his body. One day one of the swami’s disciples came with the intention of administering the treatment to Bhagavan. Taking Bhagavan’s silence for consent, Chili Swami’s disciple quickly painted the peppery paste on Bhagavan’s body. “What to do?” Bhagavan later commented, “He went on smearing the green chili paste over my body. For the first few minutes my body felt a severe burning sensation, but after a while the whole system felt very cool. I actually liked it.”
Another curious incident narrated by Kunjuswami occured when Palaniswami and Perumalswami were away in town. A group of wandering sadhus (bairagis) came to see Bhagavan at Virupaksha. saying: “We are coming from the Vindhya Hills. We had darshan of the great siddha there and he has commanded us to take you to him.” Bhagavan as usual remained silent and unmoved.
Some woodcutters who overheard the conversation
saw Perumalswami on their way down and apprised him of the situation. Perumalswami came and took one look, then went back to the town, brought tins of oil together with a large cooking vessel and put them down before the band. He then gathered fire-wood. Both the bairagis and Bhagavan were bewildered by the unusual behaviour, the former not knowing who Perumalswami was. Perumalswami put the big vessel on the fire and said: “I belong to the next village. I had a vision last night of the great siddha of the Vindyas, who commanded me to go to Virupakshi Cave. ‘You will find some bairagis there,’ he said. ‘They are siddhas too, having great powers. Pour boiling oil on them and see how they remain untouched by it.’
To my surprise when I came, you were all here, just as the siddha predicted. What a fool I was to doubt the holy words of the siddha. Immediately, I rushed to town for the vessel and tins of oil. Would I not incur a curse if I disobeyed the siddha?” Not surprisingly, when Perumal Swami went indoors, the bairagis, took to their heels.4
Devotees at Mango Tree Cave
But true devotees of Bhagavan, from the time of Ganapati Muni, each in their turn, also came and stayed at Mango
Tree Cave. T.K. Sundaresa Iyer took up residence there with the Muni in order to study the Rig Veda Sutras and follow the Mantra-Homa Marga until the latter left for Belgaum in 1926. Later on, Yogi Ramaiah occupied the little hermitage below the mango tree. In 1949 Ramani Ammal inhabited the kutir there together with another lady-devotee. Finally, Bhagavan’s attendant, Satyananda Swami, stayed there for a time as well. Each was fortunate to absorb the blessedness imbued by Bhagavan during his stays there in the warmer seasons of those glorious early years on the Hill. —
4 Adapted from Kunju Swami in Moments Remembered pp. 69-70.