Bhagavan sri Ramana Maharshi personifies, to many devotees, the Universal Father. Instances are many when devotees felt that they were looking at their own father when they saw Bhagavan.
I vividly remember a friend of our family who had accompanied us to Sri Ramanasramam in 1942, exclaim in delight as soon as he saw Bhagavan, “Here is my father, just as he looked in his later life!” Far back in 1933 when my own father was drawn to Bhagavan Ramana for the first time, he actually saw ‘his father’, with the same physical traits. And as recently as 1966, after the passing of my father, I cannot but be touched by the striking resemblance between his and Bhagavan’s appearance, although such an impression was not altogether new to me. Indeed, Bhagavan Sri Ramana is the embodiment of ‘Fatherhood,’ that is at once universal and transcendental.
On the sacred occasion of the Mahakumbabhishekam of Sri Bhagavan’s shrine, many an illustrious pen poured forth its spontaneous homage to his Lotus Feet. Before them, mine is like a candle before the splendour of the sun. Nonetheless, the inner urge to share an experience of mine, I would call it the most sacred and valuable experience in all my life, blots out my hesitation. It is just an insignificant parijata flower in the midst of thousands of fragrant roses.
Experiences with Sri Bhagavan and his Grace used to be recounted very often by my father together with other incidents in his life, rich with spiritual lessons. A boy of about twelve then, I used to listen avidly and as a result these narrations took a deep root in me, ripening into an incessant desire to have Bhagavan’s darshan, to touch him and to be always near him. During my daily prayers, my mind used to fix itself on the frontispiece photograph of Bhagavan Ramana, appearing in his books and fervently ask for his darshan. As time rolled by, the yearning intensified but no call came. Once or twice I ventured to ask my father about it, but he used to simply brush it aside with the remark, “If and when Bhagavan calls you, you will go.”
Then one day the first experience came. I think it was in 1945. One night during deep sleep I dreamt that I was sitting in the corner of a room, waiting for somebody. I then saw Bhagavan Ramana slowly enter the room and rushed to him and held him around the waist with both my hands, crying and supplicating. But Bhagavan simply passed on with apparent unconcern. I woke up and thought of it for a long time. It seemed so disappointing that there was no response from him. However, I felt confident since at last I had seen him and touched him, which proved that he had not forsaken me.
Now I began to think of him more and more. Yet again, for a long time nothing happened. Once more I was becoming desperate and losing hope. Then one dark night, he appeared and initiated me out of his boundless love. This time it was more of a vision than a dream. I was half awake and felt myself rising from bed and walking into the courtyard of our house. Total silence enveloped the entire surroundings. The blanket of darkness was accentuated by the twinkling stars above. I found myself standing still on a mound of sand, facing westward, looking, looking and looking. Slowly out of the darkness emerged the outline of a hill, shaped exactly like the Holy Arunachala. Emerging, it steadied itself into a discernible silhouette by remaining darker than the dark background. After a few minutes, a small flame leapt out of the apex of the hill. In the beginning, it was just like an eye in vertical position, but very swiftly it grew and grew until it became a pillar of light with extraordinary brightness, having the hilltop as its base and origin. Its height touched the very heavens. Its splendour was beyond description. It was just the shape of the flame of a lamp when it burns steadily golden coloured, shining as if a thousand suns had arisen together. Its golden rays fell on my body. I was riveted to the spot and found that I could move neither hand nor foot. I stood there as one totally hypnotised, oblivious of anything else but the burning golden flame. My mind was in raptures, throbbing with an ecstatic joy, which seemed to burst out of my body. How long I stood like this I cannot say, for time seemed to stop altogether. Then I became conscious of the scene, and felt that I was not alone, in that spot. With an effort, I turned my face to the right and found Bhagavan Sri Ramana was standing there, looking at me. On his lips played the most bewitching smile, while his eyes poured out boundless compassion and love. When I saw him, I forgot the jyoti and everything else and tried to fall at his feet. But he gently stopped me by placing his divine hand, upon my head. Joy of joys! My whole being, inner and outer, thrilled to that divine touch from the hand of one who is no other than God.
Waves of bliss and tranquillity took possession of my whole being. He raised his forefinger and pointed at the Golden Flame and asked me in a voice resembling the sound of silver bells, “Child, do you understand what the jyoti is? This is the real Karthigai Deepam.”
Suddenly I was wide awake, ushered by consciousness into the care and worry-ridden world. Subsequent visions have followed, all of them showing Bhagavan as the personification of supreme love, but none could ever match the splendour of this first vision and initiation.
I no longer felt dissatisfied at not being able to go to the Ashram in a physical sense, though I must confess, occasionally the desire did arise.
In 1942, I was proceeding to Madras from Coimbatore. The train was speeding along some hills in the night when a prayer to be allowed to visit the Ashram took shape in me. As I was accompanying my father, who did not entertain ideas from children, I did not talk of the prayer to anyone. A few days later, when we were to return to Coimbatore, my father suddenly asked me how I would like to go to Ramanasramam and have darshan of Sri Bhagavan. I am not ashamed to record here that I broke into tears on hearing this, as this was a prayer so graciously granted by Sri Bhagavan.
The next day, we were in our home — Sri Ramanasramam. It was a Friday and a New Moon day. As I entered the divine presence of Bhagavan Ramana, I felt that I was submerging in a sea, only this was a sea of bliss and tranquillity.
We were there the whole of the forenoon and except for a swift, piercing look that Sri Bhagavan blessed me with, nothing happened. Nothing mattered any more.
When I heard later that Sri Bhagavan had shed his mortal frame, a few teardrops rolled down my cheeks, but my father sternly said, “You are a fool. Where can Bhagavan go?” Years have rolled by; still the torch burns on, gathering more and more brightness. It is the torch that he, out of his boundless grace, lit in my heart. Now my children, in their turn, ask me: “Father, when will Bhagavan Thatha come to us?” I feel too full to reply to them, yet sometimes say, “All in good time, children. Learn to labour and to wait.”
When the messenger comes, carrying the authority of inexorable time may my heart surrender to him and may my lips whisper, “Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya.”