This part is taken from “Memorable Days With The Sage Of Arunachala” by Santi
I BELIEVE THAT September 15th, 1943 is an important day in my life, since it was on that memorable day that I was introduced to one of the greatest living sages of modern India.
It is not every day that one meets a sage like Sri Bhagavan. I think the opportunity that arose of coming into contact with him must have been the result of my prayers to God to lead me to a living sage.
On September 15th, at 7 a.m. I reached the Ashram. Bhagavan had gone to the big dining hall for breakfast. The devotees accompanied him and they were taking their seats one by one. From an old devotee of Bhagavan, I had a letter to Sri Niranjanananda Swami. I delivered the letter to him, and he took me to the dining hall and introduced me to Bhagavan. Bhagavan welcomed me with a soft and affectionate look. I prostrated and when I got up he made a sign to take my seat nearby and I did so. From the moment Bhagavan’s eyes fell on me, my heart went out to him in spontaneous love and reverence. The way he ate his food, the way he sat, the way he walked, the way he talked, were so remarkably calm, and so different from the manner of ordinary men. Here, I thought, is a perfect example of a sage, a jivanmukta. It was only now that I understood the significance of Arjuna’s question to the Lord, regarding the sthitaprajna. These questions are important because the sage sits, talks and walks, not like ordinary men, but whatever he does has a peculiarity of its own. To understand this one has to see a sage for oneself and sit at his feet.
At about 9 a.m. Bhagavan came to the meditation hall and we too entered the hall and sat facing him, while he reclined on his couch with his face turned towards us. As I sat in the meditation hall the words of king Dushyanta, ‘Peace dwells in an ashram’ came to my mind and I felt that they were true of this ashram also. For the first time in my life, I realized how dynamic santi could be. Peace seemed to emerge from Bhagavan and fill the hearts of one and all. In his presence, the mind became calm and tranquil of its own accord and consequently doubts and questions became few, and finally vanished. I was very happy and felt myself spontaneously as a kritakritya that my heart softly whispered within me the words, “Dhanyoham, Dhanyoham” (I am blessed).
All the devotees sat in the hall in front of Bhagavan till about noon, and at 12 o’clock a bell was rung announcing lunch. Bhagavan got up from his seat, and with his stick in hand slowly moved out of the meditation hall and proceeded to the dining hall. There food was served and we waited till Bhagavan took his first morsel of rice. We followed, and in about half an hour we finished our lunch and Bhagavan went back to the meditation hall. We were expected to take rest for 2 or 3 hours. By about 4 o’clock, people came into the meditation hall and sat before Bhagavan, some to put themselves in tune with the atmosphere of tranquillity, some to meditate, some to ask questions and get their doubts cleared, and some to hear the conversation that took place between Bhagavan and the many visitors. To listen to these conversations was a lesson in itself. Bhagavan’s physical form has gone, but we his devotees who have sat in his presence and have heard his calm and profound words, carry in our hearts indelible impressions of him and his words which passing times and circumstances could not easily efface. To all of us, these memories are precious treasures, and I think we should feel grateful to the ashram for publishing these volumes which aid us to relive those days we have spent with Bhagavan.
I shall now relate an incident which to me was very significant. Two or three days after my arrival at the ashram, I had a desire to dedicate a Sanskrit stanza to Bhagavan, but my knowledge of that language was not so much as to compose verse with any degree of confidence. However, the desire had sprung up within me and I was sure that by God’s kripa even the dumb could be made eloquent. So, I thought, if I prayed to Bhagavan, he would satisfy my desire. Hence in my heart, I prayed to him to extend his grace so that I might fulfil my wish.
That noon I laid myself down for my siesta. After three quarters of an hour, as soon as I got up a stanza occurred to me. Apparently without any conscious mental process, a poem was formed in my mind ready to be transcribed. I knew this was due to Bhagavan’s grace. My prayer had been granted. With great joy, I wrote it down on a piece of paper.
That afternoon I took the stanza to the hall and placed the paper at Bhagavan’s feet. Bhagavan took it, read the stanza twice or thrice, and with a tender expression he asked me to put the words sona sailam for the words Ramana Maharshi which the stanza previously had. So I changed the fourth line which read “I meditate on Ramana Maharshi in my mind” to “I meditate on sona sailam (Arunachala).” Thus Bhagavan revealed to me that he was none other than Lord Arunachala or Dakshinamurthy himself, who by his sublime silence expounded to his devotees the mysteries of self-knowledge. At that time it struck me so and my eyes were filled with tears of delight and gratitude. I prostrated once again and took my seat near the wall.
It was only after coming into contact with Bhagavan that I understood certain spiritual truths. Here I may mention one example. While I was at the ashram, I did quite a lot of mananam and meditation. Bhagavan taught that there was no qualitative difference between the experiences of ‘jagrat’ and ‘sushupthi’ and I had no great difficulty in apprehending that. But when I reflected upon my own experience, the state of sushupthi offered a difficulty. It appeared to be a complete blankness, a nullity in my existence which I felt to be discontinuous. Bhagavan said that the real ‘I’ is eternal, continuous and beyond even manas, buddhi, ahamkara and chitta, whereas I found my existence was discontinuous. So where is my real ‘I’, my true self? There seemed to be no answer and I did not realize that there could not be any answer to that question. Here, then, was a cul-de-sac, beyond which I could not go. Mentally I put the matter to Bhagavan and waited for his grace. And lo! one day, this blind alley disappeared and all of a sudden it struck me that ‘sushupthi’ is not after all a ‘sunya’ as I had formerly felt, and that I existed even in dreamless sleep to perceive the nonexistence of the world including my body and mind. A continuity of my existence is clearly intuited by me. In the waking state I am the witness of the world, mind and body; in the dream state, I am the witness of the dream; in dreamless sleep, I am the witness of the nonexistence of the world. Thus I exist in all the three states. It was indeed mysterious that all this came to me with such a depth of understanding that all doubts vanished forever. I understood clearly that to know myself was to be myself.
Mere reading and thinking about self-knowledge alone is of no use. Only by the grace of God coming through a sage like Bhagavan, can one rightly understand the words of wisdom of our great rishis, and as Sankaracharya has put it, the flight of steps leading to jivanmukti begins with satsanga, the company of sages and saints. In Viveka Chudamani it is said:
“There are good souls, calm and magnanimous, who do good to others as does the spring, and who having themselves crossed this dreadful ocean of birth and death help others also to cross the same, without any motive whatsoever.” Our Bhagavan is such a soul. Through the apparent severity and unconcern of this majestic sage, there shone unmistakably a sweetness and a love which endeared him to the hearts of those who approached him. I think we are too near Bhagavan’s time to see him in the correct perspective of history. As years roll on, his spiritual grandeur will assume Himalayan proportions and future generations will consider him as an avatara of Sri Dakshinamurthi. May He ever enlighten us!