This chapter is taken from The Silent Power – Selections from The Mountain Path and The Call Divine

Bhagavan Sri Ramanamaharshi is well known to all as a great Saint. But only a few know of his philanthropy and humanitarianism. Still fewer are those who experienced his paternal and maternal affection.

Of all these one boy alone had the most enviable opportunity of sleeping with Bhagavan and enjoying such paternal treatment. One and only one had that golden privilege.

This was in 1920. Bhagavan had come to Skandasramam from the Virupaksha cave and a small batch of devotees had gathered round him. The greatness of the Saint echoed all over the world. Devotees from all parts of India were coming for his darshan. While males enjoyed the privilege of staying in the Asramam up the hill with Bhagavan the whole day, ladies were not allowed to remain there after sun-set.

Maharshi had a younger brother and sister, his elder brother having passed away prematurely. This younger brother Sri Nagasundaram Iyer who was working as a clerk in Tiruvengadu temple had a small son. Fortunately for Sri Ramanasramam to be and unfortunately for his family, he took sannyasa when his wife died leaving a two year old boy uncared for. When both the parents left this child an orphan, Maharshi’s sister, popularly known as ‘Athai’ (aunt), took charge of the child and brought him up with unstinted love, affection and care. It was not only because she had no issue of her own but also because this boy was the only descendant of their whole family.

This lad was taken twice or thrice a year to Tiruvannamalai to see Bhagavan and his father (of the poorvasrama), henceforth known as Sri Niranjanananda Swami, by Athai and her husband, who were living in the far South. They were provided with a house near the hill at Tiruvannamalai. Every morning Athai would go up the hill and return to town in the evening, leaving the boy behind at Skandasramam.

When at first Athai hesitated to do this fearing to cause any kind of inconvenience to the much loved boy, Bhagavan said that he would be well under his protection.

In the night the boy would eat from the sacred hands of Bhagavan and Bhagavan would make him lie down beside him, cover him with a blanket and lull him to sleep. He bestowed on him all care that any sincere mother is capable of. Early in the morning he would take the boy to the spring, clean his teeth with powder, and wash his face. Athai would rush up in the morning. Bhagavan with the lad seated on a culvert would tell the child, “There comes your Athai. See in what hurry she runs up to see you.” As soon as she came up, Bhagavan would tell her, “Take your boy, see, he is safe and sound.”

This abundant affection for the boy did not in any way prevent Maharshi from being strict with him. The following incident makes it clear that Bhagavan gave the boy a practical lesson which till now he has not forgotten.

At Skandasramam lived a monkey named Nondi, which was the pet of all. Maharshi had ordered that whatever food was served to his followers should also be served to the monkey, and in case it was absent elsewhere, then its share should be kept separate for its return. In such a case, the food would be kept near a window inside the cave and the shutter closed but not bolted. This was the custom.

On one of his periodical visits to the Asramam one day, the boy had enjoyed the sweet dishes served to the devotees. He had a little more than the usual share. The monkey being absent, its share was kept near the closed window. The boy, having had his share, went up to the window and began to eat out of the monkey’s as well. Suddenly, the monkey came and opened the window only to see the boy eating its share. It gave the boy a blow on his cheek. Shocked and terrified, the boy cried out and devotees tried to console him. Bhagavan came to the spot, understood the situation and told the boy: “You deserve it. Why did you want his (monkey’s) share. You have had enough already. You ought to have been contented with that.” Instead of appeasing the beloved child, Bhagavan put him right. The boy became silent and heeded Bhagavan’s words.

“Do not touch the property of others. Be content with what you have. Share equally what you have. Divide it with one and all around you. Help the needy. Be not blind when a wrong is committed before you. Correct it if possible, or at least speak out for the right.” These are some of the golden truths the young boy was able to grasp from the words of the Maharshi that day.

That blessed boy is Swami Ramanananda (Sri T.N. Venkataraman, former president of Sri Ramanasramam, the only descendant of Maharshi’s family).