This part is written by Dr.M.Anantanarayana Rao
Legends say that there is an invisible Siddha Purusha on the slope of the Arunachala Hill and Bhagavan often confirmed this. The writer of this article, a staunch devotee who was in close contact with, and doing personal service to Sri Bhagavan in the last days of his illness, concludes that Bhagavan himself is the Siddha Purusha.
We see the light of the sun, stars galaxies and the rays of light from them help an astronomer to measure the colossal distances between stars and galaxies, their speed of travel and so on. We are told how fast light travels per second and that if a body travels at that speed, time and space do not exist for it. We understand and believe all that, it being at the mental level. We do not know exactly what light is, yet we know some of its qualities. When a scientist tells us something which we cannot ordinarily perceive with our senses, for example, radioactive waves, we believe him. But when a saint or sage tells us that there is a spiritual entity in us, something not of the mind, and beyond our senses, something which is not of time and therefore immortal, we hardly believe him. Just as a scientist gives us relative knowledge, the realised person or Sage gives us an insight which leads us to spiritual knowledge, but the ways of expression employed by the latter are different. Words cannot directly describe a spiritual entity because it is beyond the mental level, therefore analogies are employed. Analogies have their limitations and therefore are not perfect in giving us a correct knowledge of the Spirit or Atman. The sage tells us that man is a combination of body, mind and Atman. The body and mind are described as upadhis or vehicles of the Atman or Spirit. The body is inert and the mind makes it act in the way it wants it to. Mind is a very complex thing according to psychologists, but Sri Bhagavan Ramana makes the study of mind simple enough for us to follow his teachings. He divides the mind into three parts – manas, ahankara and buddhi. Manas is a bundle of thoughts, and memory is also included in it; ahankara or ego is the dominating principle which takes hold of thoughts and makes the body act; and buddhi is the discriminating principle which has the power to damp or curb the ego. The ego can be likened to the powerful secondary current or high-tension current which can only become apparent under the influence of a primary current of electricity. The high tension current derives its power from the primary current and is also a reflection of the latter, so to say. Similarly, the ego can be likened to the high-tension current, drawing its power from, and a reflection of the primary called the Atman or Spirit. From what has been described above, it should be easy to understand that man is an ’embodied soul’. Soul is a synonym for Atman or Spirit. If so, can there be a ‘disembodied soul’? A disembodied soul should be limitless as opposed to an embodied soul which is limited by the body. The disembodied soul, being limitless, therefore infinite, has the same qualities or nature of God. Arunachala Purana and some poet-saints have mentioned the existence of a disembodied soul, whom they name Siddha Purusha, sitting under a banyan tree, somewhere on the northeast peak of the Arunachala Hill. If such an entity exists, how does it contact men or jivas like us? Arunachala Ashtaka composed by Sri Ramana Bhagavan seems to contain the answer and an attempt is made here to explain the same. The verses often have a double meaning – autobiographic and deeply Advaitic.
In the first verse of the Ashtaka Sri Bhagavan says: “Hearken! It stands as an insentient hill. Its action is mysterious and past understanding. From the age of innocence, it had shone in my mind that Arunachala was something very sublime and grand, but even when I came to know through another that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai, I did not realise its meaning. When It drew me up to It, stilling my mind, and I came close, I saw It stand unmoving or as Absolute Silence.”
The pronoun ‘It’, at the very beginning of the verse, clearly refers to an Entity. Later in the verse, it is seen that Sri Bhagavan had deep down in his memory, even at the age of innocence, that ‘It’ or Arunachala, was something grand and transcendental. As a child he could not have known what a hill meant or what it was like, and the reasons for this are obvious. Therefore his memory of something sublime not in the shape of a hill at that tender age, suggests that it was brought forward from a previous birth or incarnation. A hint about a previous birth or incarnation can be deduced from the latter part of the 25th verse in the Aksharamanamalai. It reads: “What austerities left incomplete in previous births have won me Thy special favour, O Arunachala?” The same idea can also be got from the third verse in Sri Arunachala Padikam composed by Sri Bhagavan. He says, “Drawing me with the cords of Thy glance, although I had not even dimly thought of Thee, Thou didst decide to kill me (ego) outright. How then has one so weak as I offended Thee that Thou leave the task unfinished? Why dost Thou torture me thus, keeping me suspended between life and death? O Arunachala, fulfil Thy wish and long survive me all alone, O Lord.”
A nitya siddha, says Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna, is an ever-perfect one, who from his very birth seeks God or Atman, and an lsvara-koti is one who always remains in the highest plane of consciousness and can return to the plane of relative consciousness whenever he wishes to do so. This he does in order to help mankind (jivakotis) on the path towards perfection. A jivakoti may obtain samadhi through spiritual discipline and merge with Brahman in the end and once that happens he cannot return to the relative plane. An Isvara-koti, on the other hand, is an incarnation of God and has with him the power to be born as man as often as is necessary, and this he does by retaining the ego of knowledge.
Sri Bhagavan Ramana was an Isvara-koti, as defined by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and a Nitya (eternal) Siddha also. He therefore had the power to take birth in a human body.
In the second verse of the Ashtaka Sri Ramana says: “Who is the seer? When I sought within I watched the disappearance of the seer and what survived it. No thought arose to say ‘I saw’, how then could the thought ‘I did not see’ arise? Who has the power to convey this in words when even Thou (appearing as Dakshinamurti) couldst do so in ancient days by silence only? Only to convey by silence Thy (transcendental) State Thou standest as a Hill, shining from heaven to earth.” In this verse it is clear that ‘Hill’ represents the Entity presiding over it. That Entity is known as Dakshinamurti, or the Siddha Purusha mentioned in the Purana. References to previous births, ‘kill me outright,’ suspended between ‘life and death,’ ‘long survive me alone,’ and ‘ancient days’ – when considered together, suggest the possibility of Bhagavan Sri Ramana having taken births many times for helping jivakotis reach their goal rapidly.
In the third verse he says: “When I approach regarding Thee having form, Thou standest as a Hill on earth. When I came to realise who I am, what else is this identity of mine (but Thee), Thou who standest as the towering Aruna Hill?” In this verse there is a definite hint as regards his identity. Vedantists say that Brahman associated with upadhi (adjunct) is Isvara or Saguna-Brahman (Brahman with attributes), who corresponds to what may be called the personal God of various religions. Dakshinamurti is an aspect of Isvara and therefore He is endowed with the qualities of Isvara such as universal lordship, unlimited powers, etc.
In the fourth verse, Sri Bhagavan says, “To look for God ignoring Thee who art Being and Consciousness, is like going with a lamp to look for darkness. Only to make Thyself known as Being and Consciousness Thou dwellest in different religions under different (names and) forms. If (yet) men do not (come to) know Thee, they are indeed the blind who do not know the sun. O Arunachala the Great, Thou peerless Gem, abide and shine Thou as my Self, One without a second.” This verse is important. Here Sri Bhagavan definitely says that one has to look upon Arunachala as the Self. In the previous verse Sri Bhagavan has identified himself withThat – as no other than Dakshinamurti.
Let us now go back to the early life of Sri Bhagavan. In his early boyhood, he often felt a sort of mayakkam, a Tamil word which means fainting. His sleep was deep and heavy and it was only with some effort one could wake him up. The so-called mayakkam, the deep sleep, etc., seems to show that Sri Bhagavan, Venkataraman as he was then called, was going into samadhi without himself knowing about it. It is during one of such mayakkams perhaps that he was seized with the idea or fear that he was going to die and the conscious rehearsal of death put him into a conscious samadhi in which he realised that he was not the body and that he was only the Atman – eternal and deathless. At that time and until his first attendant Palaniswami brought him some books on philosophy, he was not aware of the technical terms like Brahman, koshas (sheaths) and the like. When he read the books he understood that he had already experienced all that was named and classified therein. Sri Bhagavan had not read about a Siddha Purusha (Realized Being) under a banyan tree on the hill, but he had only the memory of something great and sublime attached to the hill.
One day he saw a very large leaf of a banyan tree at the bottom of a dry waterway running down the hill. He wondered at the large size of the leaf. Some time later when he was going up the hill he saw from a distance a large banyan tree growing on a very big rock. He drew nearer to the tree after a precipitous climb, but his further progress was halted by hornets which stung him and he had to return giving up his quest. He narrated the incident to the devotees who were anxiously awaiting his return. Some days after the event, he happened to read in some books about the existence of a Siddha Purusha under a banyan tree on the north east peak of the hill. (In passing it may be said here that some of the devotees wanted to find out the place where the tree stood and told Sri Bhagavan about their intention, but they were not encouraged by him to do so. In spite of it, they climbed the hill and after undergoing very great hardships, returned with cuts and bruises without finding the location of the tree.)
Every great teacher has told us that he who succeeds in getting rid of his ego or individuality immediately experiences Atman. A jiva, after great effort or sadhana, obtains the experience of Atman. His individuality then disappears and he merges in Brahman. That union is likened to a river flowing into the sea or ocean in which the river loses its identity.
When the ego of the jiva is destroyed, the jiva becomes Siva. In that condition there is no seer or the seen, enjoyer and the enjoyed, speaker and the hearer – no duality. That condition is also described as ‘One without a second’. If egoless jiva is absorbed in Brahman, how then can a Siddha Purusha be identified and remain as an entity under the banyan tree on the top of Arunachala Hill? Here is a poser which I could not understand. I had to clear my doubt and only Sri Bhagavan could do so. On the evening of June 6, 1949, I went to Sri Bhagavan as usual after his evening meal and in the course of conversation, said: “I have read Sri Shankaracharya’s Atmabodha. In the 53rd verse of that book it is stated that the contemplative one, on the destruction of the upadhis, is totally absorbed in the all-pervading Brahman like water in water, space in space, and light in light. If that were so, how can I believe in the existence of a Siddha Purusha under a banyan tree on this hill? I can fully believe in the existence of a banyan tree because such a thing is common on a hill and, further, you saw it and told us.” Sri Bhagavan had a hearty laugh in which I also joined. There was silence for a while and then Sri Bhagavan said, “A Siddha Purusha does exist. He explained that a jnani is like a red-hot ball of iron. That ball has the qualities of fire, but the fire is limited to the size of the ball. Similarly, a jnani is Spirit but is limited by his upadhi. A Siddha Purusha also has an upadhi, but it is extremely subtle and pure and does not limit him. His upadhi can be likened to a line drawn on water. The Siddha Purusha is consciousness itself and whatever he has to do simply happens, not by any desire or will of his own. Even if miracles happen they happen as a matter of course.”
These words were followed by silence during which very many thoughts crossed my mind. Two of the important ones are noted here. Some years ago, when Sri Bhagavan was sitting with the devotees in the old hall in the Ashram, he described a vision he once had. He saw that Arunachala hill was hollow and that in it stood a beautiful town with tanks and gardens. In one of the gardens he saw a big gathering of sadhus and sannyasis. It was a conclave presided over by a sannyasi. He recognised in the gathering many familiar faces of the devotees who were then sitting in the hall. When he looked at the person presiding over the conclave he recognised him as himself. At that stage of the narrative he was interrupted by one of the devotees sitting in front, who said that visions are like dreams hence untrue. This ended the narrative. The information that Sri Bhagavan himself was presiding over the conclave is important. It connotes that Sri Bhagavan is the Siddha Purusha.
About the end of May 1949, Sri T. P. Ramachandran and Dr. Padmanabhan went into the temple hall where Sri Bhagavan was sitting. It was fairly late in the evening and the writer also went there for some work he had to do. The two devotees went behind the stone sofa on which Sri Bhagavan was sitting. There they were sobbing as they had come to know that the tumour on Sri Bhagavan’s arm was a type of cancer. Sri Bhagavan called them and asked them why they were weeping. When they gave the reason Sri Bhagavan said, “Where can I go? Where is it possible for me to go?” The upsurge of thoughts in my mind brought in their wake the strong conviction that Sri Bhagavan was no other than the Siddha Purusha on the hill but limited by his body or upadhi which we saw before us. I also felt that most of his words and writings had in them hints about his identity. I broke the silence and addressed Sri Bhagavan thus: “Bhagavan, you had from your childhood the memory of Arunachala which brought you here. Ever since you came here you have not left the precincts of the Hill, nor even gone beyond the shadow of the Hill. You were drawn mysteriously to the vicinity of the banyan tree somewhere on the top of this hill. When you attempted to go near the tree you were attacked by hornets and you had to return giving up the attempt to reach the tree. I strongly feel that if you had gone there you would have left your body there and you would not have returned to us. You are to me no other than the Siddha Purusha. Tell me please.” Sri Bhagavan was listening with a smile but suddenly he became stiff and silent with an awe-inspiring face. I stood there for some time and as the minutes passed by, the conviction that I had in my mind, grew stronger. I, therefore, felt that no answer was needed. I then prostrated before Sri Bhagavan and stood up and found Sri Bhagavan looking at me with his usual smile beaming with benevolence!
Bhagavan Sri Ramakrishna said: “The manifestation of God is through his incarnation. The devotees should worship and serve an incarnation as long as he lives in a human body . . . Not all, by any means, can recognise an incarnation of God. Assuming a human body, the incarnation falls a victim to disease, hunger, thirst and all such things like ordinary mortals . . . However great the infinite God may be, his essence can and does manifest itself through man by his mere will. God’s incarnation as man cannot be explained away by analogy. One must feel it by direct perception. An analogy can give us only a small glimpse. . . We see God Himself when we see His incarnation. Suppose a man goes to the Ganges and touches its water. He will then say: ‘Yes, I have seen and touched the Ganges.’ To say this it is not necessary for him to touch the whole length of the river from Hardwar to Gangasagar.” These words of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa tell us positively the greatness of an incarnation. Sri Swami Vivekananda, Mahendranath Gupta and many other devotees of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa looked upon him as an incarnation and he is worshipped as such. The devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana also do likewise, and it is hoped that the writer of this article has made it clear that Sri Bhagavan is an incarnation of the Siddha Purusha presiding over the Arunachala Hill. The writer feels that he is not able to understand the attributeless Absolute, but he can understand and fully believe that Sri Bhagavan came to us as an incarnation of the Siddha Purusha.
Sri Bhagavan has shown us the way. Let every one of us who came in contact with him, either in person or through his teachings, walk determinedly on that path and thus obtain his Grace to reach his Lotus Feet. So help us Sri Arunachala Ramana!