Sri Ramana Leela is a Biography of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by Sri Krishna Bhikshu Edited and Translated by Pingali Surya Sundaram
Chapter-XXXXVII, Some Light Moments
To illustrate that prarabdha could not be overcome Bhagavan once narrated one of his experiences which was as follows:
A number of devotees and disciples would offer food stuffs and eatables to Bhagavan and insist on his eating them. He had to do so though he did not like to do so. He would often say, “Only I know the problems associated with being a Swami. If you are not hungry, you need not eat but if I didn’t eat nobody else would eat. So I have to eat whether I am hungry or not.” Once Bhagavan felt that it would be good if he were to go away all by himself so that he could fast at least that day. So he quietly walked towards the forest at the foot of Arunachala. On the way he came across seven women who came to collect firewood in the forest. One of them had had Bhagavan’s darshan earlier and so could easily recognise him and immediately on doing so offered some eatables to Bhagavan and requested him to partake of them. So did the other women. Bhagavan had no choice but to partake of the food, and thus had his fill. The women did not leave him with that but insisted that Bhagavan should have his lunch with them. To avoid that prospect Bhagavan walked deep into the forest but around lunch time the women appeared there also. It was summer, and everyone was thirsty. They asked Bhagavan if there was any source of water close by. He had to guide them towards the Sona-teertha. Once again the women served him various items of food. Bhagavan was baffled that his own plan of fasting that day had been foiled. After the meal he began his return journey to the Ashram and walked along the giri pradakshina road. Quite strangely, Ramaswamy Iyer was waiting for Bhagavan at a mantapa on the road to offer him some mango juice. Bhagavan had to accept that also.
Some other incidents of the same type were:
In the early days of his arrival at Tiruvannamalai, Bhagavan stayed at the Gopura Subrahmanya shrine for a short time. A tall, well-built devotee of Bhagavan used to visit him every day and silently sit in his presence. Bhagavan as usual was always silent.The devotee, Iyer, had great affection for Bhagavan. Once, Iyer arranged a lunch at his house and wanted Bhagavan also to be one of the guests. At lunch time he asked Bhagavan to accompany him to his house but Bhagavan declined. Iyer and another equally well-built person approached Bhagavan to bodily lift him and take him. Seeing that, Bhagavan himself got up and went with them.
On another occasion, Bhagavan and Palaniswami returned to the temple at about 8’o clock in the night after their giri pradakshina. Palani left for fetching food. At that time the head of the Easanya math arrived there along with his disciples, surrounded Bhagavan and requested him to go to the math for supper. Bhagavan declined but the head of the math asked his devotees to lift Bhagavan, which Bhagavan did not like. He walked along with them and outside the temple, a cart was waiting for them. Bhagavan was again forced to get into the cart and taken to the math for supper.
Once during the Virupaksha days, Bhagavan, Palani and another person began going along a path towards the western forest. On the way a Harijan woman who was there to collect leaves and twigs saw Bhagavan and began upbraiding him. “Why can you not sit quietly at some place and meditate? Why do you have to roam about here and there like us who have to go around to collect firewood?” After saying this she left the place. Bhagavan remarked “She has taught us a good lesson in philosophy!”
One new moon day some orthodox Brahmins came to have Bhagavan’s darshan in the morning. They wished to go and perform the rite – tarpanam after the darshan. Bhagavan asked them to stay back for breakfast where uppuma was to be served. Not being able to decline Bhagavan’s invitation, the Brahmins stayed for breakfast. After breakfast was over, Bhagavan read out aloud an article detailing the good that onion could do to us and then asked them, “Did you notice any onion in today’s uppuma?” The orthodox Brahmins could not answer. Then Bhagavan said, “If onion is cut into fine pieces and fried in castor-oil the pungent smell will disappear.” Bhagavan’s upadesa was that mere adherence to customs was not important and that they were meant only as aids to sadhana.
A devotee once sat in a corner sulking. He was abusing Bhagavan within himself that Bhagavan was not helping him in any manner. At that very moment Bhagavan said to another devotee, “If you want, abuse only a decent man; if you abuse a rough one, he may beat you up.” The devotee who heard this became restless and ran towards Bhagavan and asked, “Does Bhagavan also react to abuse or praise?” Bhagavan consoled the devotee, “No, but if you have to abuse someone abuse only the Swami. If you abuse a good person he may feel hurt and you will suffer on that account. Not so the Swami who does not mind being abused.” The devotee felt quite bad at this.
During giri pradakshina an interesting event occurred.
Once a devotee took up the chanting of Tiruppugazh which contained hymns in praise of Lord Subrahmanya. In one of the lines the expression Valli Kavalene occurred, which meant Protector of Valli. The devotee was so overcome by devotion that he began repeating the word “Kavalene.” In his emotional state he forgot the Tamil meaning (Protector) of the word and somehow switched on to its Telugu meaning which is “I want.” Not only that, he kept on saying, “Laddu Kavalene,” “Vada kavalene,” (meaning “I want laddu“, “I want vada“) and repeated various eatables in the process. Those accompanying him burst into laughter whereupon he came to his senses. By the time the party reached the next mantapa by a coincidence various devotees brought the very same items and served the party. Everyone was wonder-struck at this coincidence. When the Lord and Source of all treasure was close by all that the devotee could ask for were some eatables and he got what he asked for. How can one escape one’s prarabdha?
Bhagavan had a keen sense of humour. During his stay at Virupaksha cave a north-Indian came to have his darshan. There was no one else there except Bhagavan who was working on a mud wall. The visitor took him to be a labourer and asked him “Who is the Swami here?” Bhagavan said “He has gone out.” After waiting for some time the visitor left. On the following day also the same thing happened. As he was on his way back, Echammal saw him and getting to know what had happened, took him back to the cave. After the visitor had spent some time with Bhagavan and left, Echammal asked Bhagavan whether it was fair to play a trick on the visitor. Bhagavan said, “Do you want me to go about with a piece of paper bearing the legend ‘I am the Swami’ or do you want me to get the words painted on my forehead?” Quite true. For one who cannot see even with eyes open everyone is an ordinary human being.
Bhagavan’s forbearance was limitless. In 1906 during his Virupaksha days Bhagavan came down the hill and after walking around for quite sometime began his return journey by a new route. On the way there was a hornets’ nest on a bush which Bhagavan did not notice. His left thigh brushed against the nest and before he could proceed any further a group of hornets came and attacked his left thigh. The Swami felt that as the thigh had committed the fault, it had to bear the consequences and kept quiet without attempting to drive away the hornets. He bore the pain and moved along only after the attack ceased. The thigh was badly hurt.
Once as Bhagavan was going along a path by the side of a stream on the northern part of the hill he suddenly saw a large banyan leaf, the size of a plantain leaf good enough to serve as a plate. His curiosity aroused, Bhagavan proceeded to investigate where the leaf came from. After great trouble he saw a very large boulder upon which the banyan tree was perched. It was a mystery how such a tree could grow there. After that incident Bhagavan ceased roaming about the hill and also dissuaded anyone from trying to carry out a similar exploration.
According to legend the siddha purusha, Arunagiri Siddha, sat below a banyan tree on the northern side of Arunachala. Possibly the tree Bhagavan noticed was that very one and possibly also in the kali-yuga even a sage of the eminence of Bhagavan could not see the siddha purusha.
In spite of Bhagavan’s instructions a devotee, Thomas, proceeded to explore that very place. After reaching a particular spot he could neither proceed further nor turn back. He regretted his folly and prayed to Bhagavan, who ensured his safe return.
Bhagavan’s upadesa to his mother was that destiny could never be overcome try as we might. He did not give the upadesa to his mother just to get over the situation he faced at that time but it was something which he believed in. When the time came one had to go through whatever was destined.
One day, Bhagavan accompanied by Vasudeva Sastry and some others, walked across to Pachaiamman Kovil for a bath. They were returning by a shorter route. It was ten o’clock in the morning and the sun was beating down fiercely. Bhagavan was tired and by the time the party reached a spot called the ‘tortoise rock’ where a huge boulder lay, Bhagavan had an experience which, in his own words was as follows:
Suddenly the view of the natural scenery in front of me disappeared and a bright white curtain was drawn across the line of my vision and shut out the view of nature. I could distinctly see the gradual process. At one stage I could see a part of the prospect of nature yet clear, and the rest being covered by the advancing curtain. It was just like drawing a slide across one’s view in the stereoscope. On experiencing this I stopped walking lest I should fall. When it cleared, I walked on. When darkness and faintness overtook me a second time, I leaned against a rock until it cleared. And again for the third time I felt it safest to sit, so I sat near the rock. Then the bright white curtain had completely shut out my vision, my head was swimming and my blood circulation and breathing stopped. The skin turned a livid blue. It was the regular death-like hue – and it got darker and darker. Vasudeva Sastry took me in fact to be dead, held me in his embrace and began to weep aloud and lament my death. His body was shivering, I could at that time distinctly feel his clasp and his shivering, hear his lamentation and understand the meaning. I also saw the discoloration of my skin and I felt the stoppage of my heart beat and respiration, and the increased chillness of the extremities of my body. Yet my usual current of “thought” (dhyana or sahaja Samadhi) was continuing as usual in that state also. I was not afraid in the least nor felt any sadness at the condition of my body – I had closed my eyes as soon as I sat near the rock in my usual posture but was not leaning against it. The body which had no circulation nor respiration maintained that position still. This state continued for some ten or fifteen minutes. Then a shock passed suddenly through the body, circulation revived with enormous force, as also respiration; and there was perspiration all over the body at every pore. The colour of life reappeared on the skin. I then opened my eyes, got up and said, ‘Let us go.’ We reached Virupaksha cave without further trouble. That was the only occasion on which both my blood circulation and respiration stopped.
– from Self-Realisation
Bhagavan also clarified that he did not bring the state upon himself voluntarily to see what it would be like if one died. Occasionally he had such experiences but on that occasion it was quite pronounced.
A rich devotee once said that he had been visiting Bhagavan for over ten years but could notice no spiritual improvement in himself.
Bhagavan: A first class passenger wishing to go to Kasi would ask the guard to wake him up when the train reached Kasi and then would go to sleep pulling down all shutters. Suppose he wakes up at the middle of the night and keeps lamenting that he might
already have crossed Kasi would you describe him as being intelligent? His business was to inform the guard, would not the guard look after his duty?
The devotee usually travelled by first class, Bhagavan was the guard. The devotee wished to reach Mokshapuri (City of Liberation-Kasi). Would not the guard take care of the situation, why should the devotee have any doubt?
Bhagavan’s replies to questions were usually sweet, occasionally they were critically humorous. A devotee once insisted that Bhagavan should grant him moksha at once.
“What is moksha?” asked Bhagavan.
“I have to be absolutely happy with no thought of
the world or its suffering.”
“If so, go to bed and sleep – you will have no thought of the world,” replied Bhagavan.
A visitor who belonged to Tiruvannamalai, came and invited all devotees present in the hall to dinner at his house. Bhagavan thereupon questioned him, “Why did you not invite me?” While everyone laughed, the visitor had no answer to give. Bhagavan saw his plight and said, “Go, where am I not?” and recited the sloka “Aham Vaisvanaro bhutva. . .” The reassurance of Bhagavan was a matter of great grace to the visitor. Bhagavan himself once said, “No one goes back empty-handed having come here. The non-believer becomes a believer, the believer becomes a devotee, the devotee becomes knowledgeable, the knowledgeable one becomes a jnani.”
Can there by any greater reassurance?