After pleasent experiences it is a great joy to look back and relive those most enjoyable moments by refreshing one’s memory.
The first time I came to hear of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was in 1938 when one of his devoted disciples, Sri Ramana Padananda, visited Malaya to disseminate his Gospel. Years passed on; and it was only in 1948, that through Divine Grace the opportunity offered itself. I reached Tiruvannamalai by train at dawn on 11th August and proceeded straight to the Ashram. When I alighted at the gate I was received most cordially by a cheerful young man, Sri Venkataraman (later he became the President of the Ashram), and was accommodated in the guest house. Devoid of all signs of so called civilized standards, this thatched cottage entertained me with inexpressible homeliness in the company of resident sadhus and devoted visitors. Away from the din and bustle of city life, the Ashram is ideally situated in the midst of natural surroundings. There was utter absence of caste, creed or colour or regimentation of any kind. Prince or peasant, ascetic or householder all moved with mutual respect and reverence. As background to this model of ancient hermitages, stands in all its grandeur the Holy Hill of Arunachala which has the age-old tradition of drawing into its fold great seers and sages.
With all heightened reverential emotions I entered the hall. Bhagavan was reclining on the sofa, absorbed in the Self, silent and serene, casting his radiant unconcerned look hither and thither. He wore only a koupina. The hundreds of disciples and devotees, including some Westerners, sat on the floor; ladies on one side and men on the other, all receiving darshan. I placed on a stool the fruits I carried with me and did my prostration. One of the personal attendants of Bhagavan then returned to me one fruit as prasad and I took my place amongst the gathering. The sweet smell of incense and the gentle fragrant breeze from the hillside sanctified the serene atmosphere. My nerves got soothened and emotions calmed down. Pin-drop silence prevailed. Nothing seemed more enjoyable in this blessed world than to sit in silence in that hut in the holy presence of Maharshi. All terrestrial fetters passed into oblivion. Darshan was not the monopoly of human beings alone. At certain hours the squirrels from a large tree by the side came down to claim their fair share. The beautiful peacocks followed. They found peaceful penetration into the Hall. Bhagavan glanced at them most graciously. “Oh ! you are hungry!” he said. Some grains and water were given. Each of them did full justice and went away happily like a child after a mother’s feeding!
Nights here were extremely calm and peaceful. Next day a Barrister from Bombay broke the silence by raising some conundrum, and a discussion followed at high intellectual level. When an impasse was reached, Maharshi told the Barrister of what avail is this theoretical disquisition. “Sit in silence and introspect. Enquire ‘Who am I’ and you will find the answer.” In the afternoon, the visitor said he was clear on one point, but cannot reconcile with the others. Bhagavan replied, “That is good; continue the analysis; answers to all questions will be found.” Half an hour after the Barrister had left, Bhagavan smiled and said, “He thought this is the Bombay Court.” Everybody enjoyed the joke.
Vedic chantings concluded the day’s programme. The assembly broke off. Only Bhagavan and the two attendants remained in the hall. Darshan of a Sage is a singular experience by itself, which words can hardly describe. I can only say that I felt an unusual vibrating sensation, a sort of electric charge, which had transported me for a moment. Surely, his magnetic influence had dispensed with much of my ‘heaviness’. Needless to say, Maharshi bestowed on me his gracious blessings. What is even more unforgettable are his melodious and inspiring expressions in Tamil, which often, attuned to this Holy Hermitage, reverberate in my ears.
With Maharshi’s attainment of Mahasamadhi on 14th April, 1950, the star that had shone like a Beacon Light in the spiritual firmament for two score and ten years had disappeared. Bhagavan Ramana is acclaimed to be the outstanding luminary of our times, nay an embodiment of Lord Arunachala. And if evidence is wanting, this strange phenomenon, witnessed by thousands, of a brilliant star appearing in the sky, coinciding with his passing away, speaks for itself.
In October, 1953 whilst on a pilgrimage in the Mother Land, I had the good fortune of paying my humble homage again to this sanctuary, Tiruvannamalai. In the Ashram the sofa, kamandalu, walking stick and other things that were privileged to serve Maharshi together with a statue of his were kept in view at the Hall of Mathrubhutheswar Temple. When I entered the Old Darshan Hall the absence of our incomparable Bhagavan and remembrances of the rich experiences in his Gracious Presence caused a sense of frustration. I was, however, lucky to be in time for an Abhisheka and arati at the Mahasamadhi, which lasted for two hours, attended by some 200 devotees, including a few Europeans. The large photograph of Bhagavan in his most natural posture, facing the audience, the inspirational chantings and the peace and tranquillity that prevailed, brought back to many of us the memory of the Divine Incarnate.
Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi is no more in his physical garb. But undoubtedly his Holy Spirit is in the universe manifesting unseen. We need only to tune up our hearts to him to receive his inspiration and spiritual guidance! Let us study his unique and perennial philosophy and practise as much as we can under our circumstances so that we may leave this world better than we found it.
Humble Prostrations at Maharshi’s Lotus Feet. Om Ramanaya Namah!