This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine – Ramana Reminiscences
Bhagavan Sree Ramana is a guru to all those who have faith in him. He is a rare combination of bhakti and jnana. Some devotees feel that they are led through jnana towards Self-knowledge. Each individual is helped or taught by him either through silence or sometimes by words according to the needs of that person. Therefore, one is not aware what another gets by way of help from the guru and that becomes clear when the devotees compare notes of their experience.
Often Sri Bhagavan clears the doubts in the minds of the devotees even before they put questions to him. Devotees having some problems which they themselves could not solve come there with an ardent desire of asking Sri Bhagavan for a solution, but often, and to their amazement, they themselves find the solutions of the problems when they sit in his presence.
Such a method of teaching is nothing short of a miracle in its subtlest form. Miracles, as generally understood, are something spectacular and many persons are under the impression that the greatness of a saint or sage is directly proportionate to the number of miracles he performs. That way of thinking is not correct. Sri Bhagavan says that the greatest miracle is attainment of Self-knowledge and all other spectacular performances are of the world, hence illusory! He does not admit that he performs any miracles, but things do happen which we interpret in such a way.
In this connection, it would be interesting to narrate my experience. Once I met an old friend Mr. K. A. in Poona. In the course of our conversation, he told me that in 1919, he was informed by some devotees that a peacock and a cobra played with each other in Skandasram when Sri Bhagavan was residing there. To see this, he and a friend of his, decided to go there and verify what they had heard.
They arrived at Skandasram in the afternoon and sat there for a couple of hours hoping to see the bird and the snake, but they did not appear. They felt disappointed and returned home the same day with the belief that people circulate stories that are not correct. I too had heard about the story of the peacock and the snake at Skandasram, and I believed it because I had no cause to doubt the intention of those that told me about it. I tried to convince Mr. K.A., that miracles have no value to gauge the greatness of a saint, which according to him have a value, and he put forward very strong arguments to support his own case.
Mr. K. A. is a well-read old man, and the conversation initiated a struggle in my mind whether to believe or discard as untrue what I had heard. My mind was very uneasy for a couple of days and it calmed down when it occurred to me that the peacock and the snake could not have obliged Mr. K.A. and his friend during the very short stay they made at Skandasram.
Sri Bhagavan’s talks are very instructive and can be easily understood by those who listen to him. He talks about his own experience in very simple language. He generally speaks in Tamil, Telugu or in Malayalam. He knows English but seldom speaks in that language. People who do not know the Dravidian languages ask questions in English and his replies are given in Tamil which are then translated into English by an interpreter for the benefit of the questioners. When he finds that the translation is not correct he suggests appropriate English words to the interpreter. He writes and composes in the three Indian languages mentioned above and in Sanskrit too. Most of his works have been translated into English and other languages. From the study of such spiritual literature much benefit can be derived, but one who is earnest in the quest of the Self, gets abiding inspiration by personal contact with Sri Bhagavan. Since he knows many languages, it is possible to converse with him and get more benefit than from reading books alone.
I have had opportunities to talk to Sri Bhagavan and one of them is mentioned here. One day I went to see Gurumurtham and the garden near it. These two places are well known to those who have read his biography. It is in this garden that Bhagavan’s uncle recognised him as his nephew Venkataraman, who had left his home some three years earlier. After visiting the two places I returned to the Ashram and told Sri Bhagavan that the place now is more or less an open ground and is not a garden as described by Sri Narasimhaswamy in his book Self Realization. Sri Bhagavan immediately began to describe how the garden was then and proceeded further to describe his life during his sojourn there. He said that he was taking shelter in a lamb pen which was hardly high enough for him to sit erect. If he wanted to stretch his body on the floor, most of it was out in the open. He wore only a kaupina and had no covering over the rest of his body. If it rained he remained on the wet and sodden ground where sometimes water stood a couple of inches deep! He did not feel any inconvenience because he had no ‘body sense’ to worry him. He felt that sunrise and sunset came in quick succession. Time and space did not exist for him! He then tried to describe the state of his awareness of the Self and his awareness of the body and things material. To him the sun of absolute Reality made the phenomenal world disappear and he was immersed in that light which dissolves diversity into the One without a second!
It is not possible to express exactly the thrill felt by all of us who were listening to him. We all did feel as if we were transported into that condition to attain that which we are striving for. There was a deep silence in the hall for some time during which everyone present felt peace and happiness. It occurred to me then that Bhagavan, while narrating any incident of his life, takes the opportunity to teach us, and I told him that when he spoke we felt as if it was easy to experience the Self and even as if we had glimpses of it. We asked him exactly how one has to proceed to be in that state of continuous awareness which he had described. Sri Bhagavan, with his sparkling eyes, looked at me benevolently, raised his hands and said, “It is the easiest thing to obtain. The Self is always in you, around you and everywhere. It is the substratum and the support of everything. You are experiencing the Self and enjoying it every moment of your life. You are not aware of it because your mind is on things material and thus gets externalised through your senses. Hence you are unable to know it. Turn your mind away from material things which are the cause of desires, and the moment you withdraw your mind from them you become aware of the Self. Once you experience the Self, you are held by it, and you become ‘That which is the One without a second.’”
When he finished his words I again felt in the same way as I felt on the first day I met him in 1923 — that Sri Bhagavan is a big power house and his power or grace overwhelms us, whatever our ideas may be and leads us into the channel flowing into the Self. It became clear to me that we can have the knowledge of the Self if only we take the path into which a realised person or guru directs us.
In conclusion I wish to say that one should constantly meditate that one is not the body or the mind. Unless the mind is in contact with the senses, we cannot get any report from our ears, eyes etc. We must therefore still the mind by disconnecting it from the senses and thus get beyond them to experience the Self. What we learn from sense perception is only relative knowledge. Knowledge of the Self can be learnt only by sitting at the feet of one who has realised it; what others tell you is mere talk. Bhagavan Sri Ramana is one of those Masters who has realised the Self and like all other Masters who preceded him, he helps us proceed rapidly to attain Self-knowledge.