Eye-witness Account of a Medical Officer Who Attended on Sri Maharshi ( Lt. Col. P.V. Karamchandani )
This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine
How Shri Maharshi responded with spontaneous quickness to sincere requests and prayers, even during his last moments, is here detailed by a reputed physician who skethes the sombre yet touchingly majestic setting of the Master’s mahanirvana.
The extraordinary privilage of attending on Bhagavan Sri Maharshi during the last two months came to me rather unexpectedly and without any planning on my part.
About fifteen years ago while I was working in Trichy, a friend from North India wrote to me asking particulars about Tiruvannamalai and Sri Ramana Maharshi. I wrote back saying that I had neither seen nor heard about the town and the sage and that I was interested in neither.
In December last year I was posted to North Arcot and very soon after, a medical officer came to me, invited me to visit the hospital at Tiruvannamalai and also added that the occasion could be availed of to see Sri Ramana Maharshi. Though the casual mention of Tiruvannamalai evoked memories of my friend’s query, I had no impelling urge to go to the district town.
Official work however, took me to Tiruvannamalai after some months. When my inspection work was over, it was suggested to me that I could pay a visit to the Ashram. I agreed. I went to the Ashram and there saw Sri Bhagavan.
Before I saw Sri Maharshi, I had been told that he was four times operated on, for sarcoma. When I examined him, I found a small ulcer in his arm above the elbow. At the upper end of the ulcer there was a swelling. I couldn’t be certain as to whether this was the tumour growth coming up again after the operation or whether it was ordinary inflammation. I suggested penicillin to eliminate this doubt. Penicillin was not given and in course of time it proved to be a tumour growth.
I was called again to Tiruvannamalai only after six weeks. When I saw Sri Bhagavan this time, I found a big growth almost covering the upper left arm except for a two inch space in front. This growth was bleeding and losing serum, thereby directly depleting the system of bodily fluids. Added to this there was pain, which was exhausting the body. More than haemorrhage and loss of serum, pain was the distressing feature.
The variety of tumour that Sri Bhagavan had was spindle shaped sarcoma, probably arising from the sheath of the ulnar nerve. This is a very painful tumour with its speciality of shooting pain. In medical language we call it lacinating pain but Sri Bhagavan described it as something like insects creeping up and down the arm! He bore with this pain as though the body did not belong to him. Whenever I asked him whether there was pain, Sri Bhagavan said that it was nothing.
Within this period I came again and found the tumour furiously growing, draining the system fast and also arousing some sensation of pain in the impregnable and imperturbable personality of Sri Bhagavan. I could only illustrate this by one tiny incident. A few days before Sri Bhagavan’s departure someone touched the cloth on the tumour and there appeared an expression of pain on his face. The attendant who touched the cloth said that he touched only the cloth on the tumour and not the tumour itself. To which Sri Bhagavan replied that the cloth bore the weight of mountains!
I came to see Sri Bhagavan at about midnight on the 13th instant. I found him resting with closed eyes. When he opened them, he asked all the attendants to clear out of the room. He repeated this half a dozen times and this was interpreted as delirium. But I examined him and found him to be fully conscious and not at all delirious. I asked the attendants to obey Sri Bhagavan’s instructions by going out of the room. Throughout the night I sat with him. There was respiratory embarrassment (Cheyne Stoke breathing as we call it). Pain was very intense because even the least movement brought forth evidence of pain.
I left in the morning and came back in the evening, just two hours before Sri Bhagavan’s last breath. This privilege of being by his side at that time was something which I prayed for but which I little expected. When I entered his room, Sri Bhagavan’s eyes were closed. He was propped up on his bed and breathing was very hard. The lips were parched and I gave him some drops of water. I thought that a little fruit juice would be better. I asked him, “Bhagavan, shall I give you some orange juice?” I repeated the question twice and each time Sri Bhagavan shook his head to mean ‘no’.
Then a strange thing happened. I stood beside him prayerfully repeating the question within my mind. Suddenly, Sri Maharshi nodded his head to mean ‘yes’ and opened his mouth. I gave him three teaspoons of juice. Each time he opened his mouth and swallowed the juice. This was the last nourishment that Sri Bhagavan had. This was at about 7.45 pm.
At ten minutes to eight, Sri Maharshi’s pulse was still perceptible. A big crowd of devotees was sorrowfully waiting outside expecting and fearing that the last breath would be taken at any minute. I felt that it was not a question of minutes and to relieve the prevailing tension, a bulletin was issued to the effect that there was no immediate danger to life. This relieved the assembled devotees a little. At twenty five minutes to nine, the pulse was still perceptible and the breathing was very hard and laborious. It was distressing beyond words to see that mighty personality suffering such pains. I asked within myself why such a great soul should undergo such agonies. Had he taken on himself the karma of others? If he should suffer such pains what about others? Could not Sri Bhagavan relieve himself of the pain? Thoughts like these weighed in my mind as I stood watching Sri Bhagavan.
As though to provide an answer to my suffering, the picture changed and changed suddenly.The pulse disappeared and breathing became slow and easy, a very unusual feature at such a time and stage. The breathing became slower and slower till it completely stopped at thirteen to nine. The last breath was as easy and slow as any other previous breath. We were able to decide the last breath only from the fact that there were no breaths after. The jerk, the struggle and the gasps that usually announce the last breath in the case of ordinary people were not there in the case of Sri Bhagavan.
And so slowly and smoothly Sri Bhagavan secured his release from his physical encasement. That was the end.
No. How could that be? Sri Bhagavan has no beginning and no end.