This part is taken from “Remembering Ramana” by Chagganlal Yogi
Of the various characteristics attributed to the man of wisdom and devotion in the Bhagavad Gita, the sense of equality in word and deed towards all beings belonging to human, animal and vegetable life is considered to be very important. Sri Ramana Maharshi, the Sage of Arunagiri, possessed this rare quality among many others. This fact has been borne out by a few true, incidents from his life, set forth in this article.
One day the post brought a small parcel to Sri Ramanasramam. It was a tin weighing about a pound containing the invigorating medicinal jam called Chyavanaprash avaleha, sent from the Punjab by a devotee. It was accompanied by a letter wherein the devotee had requested Sri Ramana Bhagavan to take a teaspoonful of the avaleha every morning so that his health may be improved and vigour restored.
After reading the letter, Sri Ramana said with a sweet smile, “Oho! So he wants me to be a sandow! But, isn’t it still better if all of us become sandows?”
The next morning, every devotee found a little of the avaleha served on his leaf along with his breakfast and thus the entire quantity was consumed in a trice.
It was a rule with Sri Maharshi not to take any costly food at all and if a rich dish was brought to him, it was invariably distributed equally among all the diners. “We cannot afford rich dishes,” he used to say.
Once when Sri Bhagavan was suffering from serious ill- health and debility, the doctors recommended that he should take some nourishing food. But he would not listen to it. The devotees too continued to make pressing appeals to him. Some of them would earnestly plead for thickly-buttered bread, some others for milk and some again for sweet orange juice. But to all of them, he had only one answer to give, with his usual genial smile: “But how can we afford to have such a luxurious diet? For us there can only be the poor man’s ration.”
“But what is the harm in changing the diet for the sake of health? Even Mahatma Gandhi takes a special diet and Sri Aurobindo too does the same, to keep up their health. Please, therefore, do take at least a tumblerful of sweet orange juice, for our sake,” ventured a devotee in a plaintive tone.
“Well, well! But do you know the cost of a tumbler of juice?” asked Sri Bhagavan.
“Oh, only four annas”, rejoined the devotee with hope gleaming in his eyes.
“No, it won’t be four annas. We will require about 200 tumblers of juice. Do you want me alone to gulp down the sweet drink with all of you gaping by? Moreover, how can we poor folk provide 200 tumblers of juice worth Rs. 50 a day?” put in Sri Bhagavan smilingly.
The answer dumbfounded the devotee for a while, but he would not give in so easily. He had a lingering hope that if once Sri Bhagavan somehow started to take the nourishing diet, he would continue to do so for at least some days and his health would thereby surely gain. So the next day, he quietly prepared fine hot rotis, well-smeared with ghee and filled two tumblers one with milk and the other with sweet orange juice. Then with the help of a few other devotees, all these things were taken to Sri Ramana.
“What’s all this?” he queried as he saw them coming with something in their hands.
Putting down the tray before him, the devotees uncovered it and prayed to him to deign accept the things. He refused point-blank to even touch them and wished that the devotees themselves should consume them. Repeated appeals to him from other devotees were also of no avail. In the heat of the moment, a lady devotee burst out:
“Oh Bhagavan! Just as you are kind enough to agree to sit on the sofa for our sake, so also why not favour us by taking this diet?” Though the lady spoke these words in good faith, the outcome was quite the reverse of what was expected.
Hardly had she finished, when to her and other devotees’ dismay, Sri Bhagavan got down from the sofa and quietly squatted on the floor.
“Oh, oh! My Bhagavan! No, no, please don’t. What a silly woman I am! What horrid words I blurted out.” She screamed out with anguish in her heart and tears in her eyes.
All others also stood aghast. The remedy turned out worse than the disease! The rotis, milk and juice were left to themselves and everybody was racking their brains to find a way out of this impasse and re-seat Sri Bhagavan on the sofa.
It was certain that no appeal or argument would move Sri Bhagavan to change his decision. Therefore a devotee who had been associated with Sri Bhagavan for over thirty-five years resolved to take a desperate step. Without any fuss, he simply started lifting Sri Bhagavan bodily. Seeing this, one or two other devotees joined him and together they succeeded in lifting and placing Sri Bhagavan’s body on the sofa. Sri Bhagavan thereafter neither resisted nor tried to come down from the sofa. However, the devotees were so much upset that even after seeing Sri Bhagavan sitting quietly on the sofa, they began to beseech him with folded hands not to get down again.
Sri Bhagavan, out of his benevolent grace, accepted the new situation created apparently by sheer physical force, but really out of sincere love and devotion of the devotees, and every one felt greatly relieved. Thus a loving attempt of the devotees to make Sri Bhagavan agree to take a special diet, came to a fruitless end.
Sri Ramana maintained till the end his very keen sense of strict equality in his treatment towards one and all. Whenever any eatable was offered to him it was distributed equally among all the ashramites and guests. For instance, when fifty bananas were offered by someone and there were one hundred leaves, everyone got his equal share of half a banana. If a server made an exception in Sri Bhagavan’s case, intentionally or otherwise, and served one whole banana or three-fourths, he would not rest till the excess was removed from his leaf.
One evening we offered puries. There were enough to serve two puries on his leaf. Sri Bhagavan asked the server why he had been served two puries instead of one. The latter explained that everyone had been served two each. Immediately his eyes quickly passed over all the leaves to see if the explanation given was correct, and when he saw that it was so, he expressed his satisfaction by a vocal sound of assent.
Not only did Sri Ramana express his sense of equality to human beings without distinction of sex, class, birth or education, he applied it to even beasts and birds. Nay, even trees and plants were as dear to him as men and animals. That this equal eye for all was not a mere theory or a platitude with him, but was a living reality, is attested by the following incident.
One day, some labourers were thrashing a mango tree with long pieces of bamboo in order to bring down the mangoes. This, of course, brought down the mangoes, but with them also broke down a large number of leaves, twigs and small branches, which fully covered the ground below. Sri Bhagavan heard the sound of this belabouring of the tree and with clearly discernible pain on his countenance said to the labourers: “Enough, enough, now stop your thrashing. Whoever told you to bring down mangoes in such a brutal manner? Just see what havoc you have played! How many leaves and twigs and branches you have truncated from the tree? Get aside, we don’t want to have mangoes this way.”
Sri Bhagavan then proceeded to the goshala. The labourers were puzzled and ashamed on account of the severe rebuke from Sri Bhagavan. After a pause they gathered the leaves, twigs, etc., and put them in a heap in one corner and waited with folded hands for Sri Bhagavan’s return. When he passed by them, they prayed to him to forgive them for their unthoughtful action.
In reply he simply said: “Alas! How brutally you have dealt the blows to the poor tree! What an amount of green foliage you have destroyed!”
Verily Sri Ramana personified that ideal of life which is mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita: “One who has not a trace of malice for any living being and is friendly and compassionate to all.”
Such was Bhagavan Sri Ramana, our Great Master, to whom I bow with obeisance.