This part is written by Evelyn Kaselow
When I asked whether Bhagavan ever made jokes and whether he was ever in a lighter mood, Sri Kunju Swami jumped at me, as it were, to correct me and went into an ecstatic mood. With tears in his eyes he said: “Bhagavan is the most natural man you can ever conceive of. He had a very subtle sense of humour; it never hurt anyone and was never aimed at anyone. He also appreciated others’ jokes, even those at his cost!” I became impatient and wanted him to tell me a few instances. He narrated the following:
Once, a boy was seated in front of Sri Bhagavan. Flies were troubling him and he was killing them. Seeing this Bhagavan told him: “Don’t kill them; it is wrong.” After some time the boy looked at Bhagavan intensely and remarked: “You say killing is wrong. I was only killing little flies which were giving me trouble, but you have killed a big tiger and you are sitting on its skin. How can it be?” Bhagavan laughed and said:
“Yes, what he says is quite right!”
The same boy had the habit of wasting food served on his leaf-plate while seated with others. Once Bhagavan told him that he should not leave anything on the plate when he finished eating. That day too the boy could not eat everything, but stuffed something into his mouth and took out the empty leaf. Bhagavan saw him take out the empty leaf. However, the boy after throwing away the leaf also spat out the food that he had stuffed in his mouth. It was reported to Bhagavan. He enjoyed the trick of the boy and gave a hearty laugh.
Another boy who used to go round the Hill with Sri Bhagavan and other devotees was always silent, though others used to sing hymns and prayers and chants. (Bhagavan sometimes even used to hold this boy’s shoulder while walking round the Hill.) One day Bhagavan, after everyone of the party had sung some song or other, asked this boy why he alone did not sing. The boy’s spontaneous reply made Sri Bhagavan laugh to his heart’s content. It was: “Do jivanmuktas ever sing?”
The author of Sat Darshana Bhashya, Sri Kapali Sastriar, was very close to Sri Bhagavan from his early youth, so much so he was one of the very few whom Bhagavan addressed intimately without prefixing or suffixing respectful terms (Bhagavan was very particular in addressing all, even children, only with respect). His parents were very keen to get him married and he himself was stoutly opposing it. They even approached Bhagavan to persuade him to marry. One day, Sri Kapali Sastriar went near Bhagavan and said: “Bhagavan, tomorrow I intend taking up asrama (Four asramas, viz., brahmacharya, grihasta, vanaprastha and sannyasa. Usually when a person says he would take asrama it meant only sannyasa asrama.) (stage in life).” Bhagavan, who knew his aversion to marriage and the anxiety of his parents, was surprised and said “Kapali, what are you saying? Have you taken the permission of your parents?”
Meekly he replied: “Yes, Bhagavan! I am going to enter into the second asrama (meaning, marriage)!” Bhagavan laughed heartily and enjoyed the joke.
A young girl, named Rukmini, aged ten, the daughter of Vilacheri Ranga Iyer, used to meditate in front of Sri Bhagavan, seated like a statue. Some older boys or girls sitting next to her used to tickle her to disturb her. Bhagavan used to watch all these in amusement. One day, after having had her bath, Rukmini, as usual, sat for meditation in right earnest (like a yogi). A boy nearby (who had not had his bath yet) teased her, saying: “I am going to touch you.” Rukmini firmly replied: “No one can touch me!” Bhagavan was looking at them. She turned to Bhagavan and then asked, “Yes, none can touch me, they can touch only my body. How can any one touch ME?” Bhagavan gave an expression of wonder and appreciation at the depth of her statement!
Mudaliar Patti, who used to feed Sri Bhagavan daily, always tried to serve more cooked rice to him, by making a ball of rice by pressing it hard into a certain shape. One day, Sri Bhagavan, noticing her trick, commented, “She is clever. She feels she could serve me more food through making it appear less. I know her trick!” Bhagavan made gestures of her pressing the rice with her hands. Taking the cue, straight came Mudaliar Patti’s reply: “Bhagavan! What is more and what is less? There is nothing that is either big or small. Everything is only our bhavana2 (thinking).” She made similar gestures as made by Bhagavan. Bhagavan enjoyed the joke and remarked, “See, see!
How well she is giving back to me my own teaching.”