This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine
Sri Bhagavan had a unique method of expounding profound truths with illustrations taken from everyday life. His words were never premeditated but came spontaneously, they were also apt, as the following incident will show.
It was in 1932, I think, when I was in charge of the daily puja at the Mother’s shrine, that a devotee known as P.W.D. Ramaswami Iyer arranged for a special food offering of sarkarai pongal (a kind of rice-pudding) and vadai (a small round cake of blackgram fried in oil).They were to be offered at the time of the ushah puja (puja conducted before day break in the month of Margasira (December-January)). I had many things to do and there was no one to help me. So I got up very early, at about half past three, and after taking my bath in the Pali Tirtham, removed the old flowers from the shrine, swept and cleaned the floor and lit two fires, over one of which I placed the pot of rice for the pongal and over the other the pan of oil for the vadai. I then sat down to grind the black gram which I had soaked in water previously. By the time the dough was ready, the oil was sufficiently hot. I had not actually prepared vadais previously at any time. But I took some dough and tried to spread it out on the leaf in the form of a neat round vadai as I had seen others do, but it would not come out properly. I tried again and again but it was of no use. I then got annoyed and threw the dough in disgust back into the vessel. The next moment I noticed some movement behind me. When I turned round I saw, to my consternation, Sri Bhagavan standing behind me and watching my efforts to make vadai. I was naturally agitated but he said quietly, “It doesn’t matter. You have added too much water while grinding the black gram. Now make round balls of the dough and fry them. They will then be bondas!” I did accordingly.
When the bondas were served to the devotees at breakfast, as usual, Ramaswami Iyer said to me angrily, “Look here. Did I not ask you to prepare vadai? Then why have you made bondas?” I was afraid to say anything and so merely looked at Sri Bhagavan who immediately turned to Ramaswami Iyer and said, “What does it matter? If the cakes are flat and circular they are vadais, if spherical, bondas. The stuff is the same and the taste is the same. Only names and forms are different. Eat the prasadam (food offered to a deity) and don’t make a fuss.” Everyone was astonished at the ready and apt reply of Sri Bhagavan. Ramaswami Iyer could not contain his joy! He exclaimed, “Wonderful, Wonderful!” Later in the day, when he saw me, he said, “I say, you are a lucky fellow. Sri Bhagavan himself is supporting you.”
The world consists of names and forms. These are naturally many, but what lies behind them is one and the same. Names and forms are not real although we think that they are. Brahman which underlies them is real, but we forget it. What wisdom lay in Sri Bhagavan’s words!