The Samudram Lake at the foot of Arunachala Hill near Sri Ramanasramam is very extensive; neither summer rains nor winter monsoons in Tiruvannamalai fill this lake save once in a way, when it overflows.
Thus it overflowed once long years ago. The sight of it was very grand, and the outflow was as wide as a river. The tank really seemed that day like the Ocean of its name (Samudram). Bhagavan told us that it held this name because a certain local ruler had this tank constructed as a miniature sea to give his Queen an idea of what a sea would look like; for she had never seen the sea and wished to do so.
People thronged to look at the overflowing lake, and then came to Bhagavan to talk about it. One morning the devotees in the Hall expressed to Bhagavan a desire to visit the lake, and He was kind enough, human enough, to accept the suggestion; so we all went for a stroll to see it. The tank bund is about a mile long; we walked about a mile from the Ashram to the tank, and then the whole length of the bund. The presence of Bhagavan with us, and His words, were more interesting to us than the brimming tank and the grand view of the wide waters at the foot of holy Arunachalam.
Bhagavan talked of many things on that walk with us, but at this distance of time I remember only two topics that interested me. At one place He pointed out a palmyra tree which had decayed in the embrace of a parasitic banyan tree. Some bird had dropped a banyan seed into the palmyra, and as it began to grow the palmyra became cloven and stunted in its own growth. Drawing our attention to this phenomenon, Bhagavan remarked that this is just what the look of Grace from a Jnani does. One look into a soul, and the whole tree of past tendencies and prejudices (vasana), gathered up through long cycles of past births, is burned up and decays away. Then the reality of the Self is experienced. Thus He explained to us the effect of contact with the Great and He said the supreme Jnana obtained with the touch of the Saint can never be won through the study of any number of Scriptures, or by any store of good deeds, or by any other spiritual practices and efforts. Later, on return to the Ashram, I put this in verse form as below:
A bird drops seed upon a tree and causes its decay. So Guru’s grace rays knowledge into the seeking mind. Replacing ego-shadows with resplendent Jnana’s light.
The point of this Verse, brought out fully in the Tamil, is that made by Bhagavan Himself. The seed of the huge banyan tree, which grows to shelter hundreds, is one of the tiniest and represents unselfish benevolence. The seed of the palmyra which is so large, grows into a tree which can hardly shelter a single man from the sun, and so well represents the selfish ego. Yet this tiny seed can be dropped by a bird in its droppings, and while it grows it can demolish the palmyra tree itself. So the tiny seed of Grace can destroy the great tree of egoism.
Then when we actually came to the overflowing outlet at the end of the lake, we all marvelled at its width. We stayed there for some time, and then returned. On the return walk, we happened to pass the sluice at the centre of the bund. Pointing to this, Bhagavan remarked: “Look at this small outlet, as compared with the big one at the end! But for this small hole, through which the stream of water trickles, the vast contents of the lake would not be helpful to vegetation. If the bund breaks it will be a regular deluge, and the entire crop will be destroyed. Only if the water be served under proper regulation through this sluice, are the plants helped to grow. So too is it with the Divine Consciousness. Unless the bliss of this Consciousness is gifted through the Grace of the Guru in controlled outlets, the soul cannot be helped to the destruction of its tendencies of the past; for in this way the Self, abiding as such in its oneness with the Divine, is established in the Guru’s State of Being. Holding on to its Being Consciousness, the work of destroying the past (vasana) proceeds as and when thoughts arise to push the mind into action. This work becomes possible only in the proximity of the Guru. Hence the Guru is himself like the sluice and irrigates souls with Grace from his ocean of kindness, needed so that the Self may abide and the old tendencies be withered away. But if the bund is broken, the full force of the whole lake rushes through and sweeps everything before it. This resembles a practitioner (sadhaka) receiving the full force of Divine Consciousness without the intervening and mitigating grace of Guru’s sluice; he dies without the benefit of having the tendencies destroyed.”
This idea too I later put down in the form of a Tamil verse to this effect:
Water flowing through a channel carries off great heaps of sand;
So mountain masses of the ego are washed away by Grace.