Here Dr. T. N. Krishnaswamy gives an account of his experiences as the ‘official photographer’ of the Ashram. As confirmed by Sri Bhagavan, the Divine assumes a visible, physical form out of Grace to give solace and guidance to devotees. The importance of Sri Bhagavan’s pictures is therefore obvious.
Owing to my busy life in Madras I could usually spend only a day or a part of a day at Tiruvannamalai when I went there. I always took my camera with me and I used to spend the whole time with the Maharshi and take as many photos of him as I could. I was afraid he would get annoyed at my persistence, but he never did. I have photographed him walking, sitting, eating, wiping his feet. I have caught him smiling and laughing, speaking and silent, and also in samadhi. Once he was going up the Hill when it started to rain and he was offered a home-made palm-leaf umbrella and I snapped him using it. I took another picture of him using an ordinary umbrella and smiling broadly as he did so.
Sometimes I used to wonder if it was not ridiculous of me to pay so much attention to photography when his teaching was that “I am not the body”. Was I not chasing the shadow and even trying to perpetuate it? At the time I paid very little attention to his teaching. I was attracted only by the beauty and grace of his person. It gave me immense pleasure to take pictures of him. He was more important than, his teaching.
Later, when he was no longer bodily with us, I turned to his teaching; and then I found that the Grace of his Presence had prepared me for it. I had been attracted to him as a child is to its mother, without knowing why I had derived sustenance from him as a child does from its mother. I was glad afterwards that I had enjoyed his presence when he was bodily with us. The following little incident shows how he himself approved of people worshipping the physical form assumed by the Divine.
One day I was walking on Arunachala with the Maharshi when he picked up one small stone from the path and held it out to me saying, “Someone has written from abroad asking for a stone from the holiest part of the Hill. He does not know that the whole Hill is sacred. It is Siva himself. Just as we identify ourselves with a body, so Siva has chosen to identify with the Hill. Arunachala is pure Awareness in the form of a Hill. It is out of compassion to those who seek him that he has chosen to reveal himself in the form of a Hill visible to the eye. The seeker will obtain guidance and solace by staying near this Hill.”