Silence Flowing Like A Stream – Ramana Maharshi

portrait in ink – by V.N. O’Key

Silence Flowing Like a Stream
From Paul Brunton’s, Search in Secret India

“Happiness is your nature.It is not wrong to desire it.What is wrong is seeking it outside, when it is inside.” ~ The Maharshi

“We shall now go in the hall of the Maharshi,” announces the holy man
of the yellow robe, bidding me to follow him. I pause outside the
uncovered stone veranda and remove my shoes. I gather up the little
pile of fruits which I have brought as an offering, and pass into an
open doorway. Twenty brown-and-black faces flash their eyes upon us.
Their owners are squatting in half-circles on a red-tiled floor. They
are grouped at a respectful distance from the corner which lies
farthest to the right hand of the door. Apparently everyone has been
facing this corner just prior to our entry. I glance there for a
moment and perceive a seated figure upon a long white divan, but it
suffices to tell me that here indeed is the Maharshi.

The divan is but a few paces away from a broad high window in the end
wall. The light falls clearly upon the Maharshi and I can take in
every detail of his profile, for he is seated gazing rigidly through
the window in the precise direction whence we have come this morning.
His head does not move, so, thinking to catch his eye and greet him as
I offer the fruits, I move quietly over to the window, place the gift
before him, and retreat a pace or two.

A small brass brazier stands before his couch. It is filled with
burning charcoal, and a pleasant odour tells me that some aromatic
powder has been thrown on the glowing embers. Close by is an incense
burner filled with joss sticks. Threads of bluish grey smoke arise and
float in the air. I fold a thin cotton blanket upon the floor and sit
down, gazing expectantly at the silent figure in such a rigid attitude
upon the couch. The Maharshi’s body is almost nude, except for a thin,
narrow loin-cloth, but that is common enough in these parts. His skin
is slightly copper-coloured, yet quite fair in comparison with that of
the average South Indian. I judge him to be a tall man; his age
somewhere in the early fifties. His head, which is covered with
closely cropped grey hair, is well formed. The high and broad expanse
of forehead gives intellectual distinction to his personality. His
features are more European than Indian. Such is my first impression.

Pin-drop silence prevails throughout the long hall. The sage remains
perfectly still, motionless, quite undisturbed at our arrival. I look
full into the eyes of the seated figure in the hope of catching his
notice. They are dark brown, medium-sized and wide open. If he is
aware of my presence, he betrays no hint, gives no sign. His body is
supernaturally quiet, as steady as a statue. Not once does he catch my
gaze, for his eyes continue to look into remote space, and infinitely
remote it seems.

It is an ancient theory of mine that one can take the inventory of a
man’s soul from his eyes. But before those of the Maharshi I hesitate,
puzzled and baffled.

The minutes creep by with unutterable slowness. First they mount up to
a half-hour by the hermitage clock which hangs on a wall; this too
passes by and becomes a whole hour. Yet no one in the hall seems to
stir; certainly no one dares to speak. I reach a point of visual
concentration where I have forgotten the existence of all save this
silent figure on the couch. My offering of fruits remains unregarded
on the small carved table which stands before him.

There is something in this man that holds my attention as steel
filings are held by a magnet. I cannot turn my gaze away from him. My
initial bewilderment, my perplexity at being totally ignored, slowly
fade away as this strange fascination begins to grip me more firmly.
But it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become
aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my
mind. One by one, the questions which I have prepared in the train
with such meticulous accuracy drop away. For it does not now seem to
matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not seem to matter
whether I solve the problems which have hitherto troubled me. I know
only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me,
that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and
that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest.

I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of restfulness
until two hours have passed. The passage of time now provokes no
irritation, because I feel that the chains of mind-made problems are
being broken and thrown away.

Comes the first ripple. Someone approaches me and whispers in my ear,
“Did you not wish to question the Maharshi?” The spell is broken. As
if this infelicitous intrusion is a signal, figures rise from the
floor and begin to move about the hall, voices float up to my hearing,
and-wonder of wonders!-the dark brown eyes of the Maharshi flicker
once or twice. Then the head turns, the face moves slowly, very
slowly, and bends downward at an angle. A few more moments, and it has
brought me into the ambit of its vision. For the first time the sage’s
mysterious gaze is directed upon me. It is plain that he has now
awakened from his long trance.

The intruder, thinking perhaps that my lack of response is a sign that
I have not heard him, repeats his question aloud. But in those
lustrous eyes which are gently staring at me, I read another question,
albeit unspoken. “Can it be – is it possible – that you are still
tormented with distracting doubts when you have now glimpsed the deep
mental peace which you – and all men – may attain?”

The peace overwhelms me. I turn to the guide and answer: “No. There is
nothing I care to ask now. Another time.”

This is such a beautiful story, I thought I would share it with you all.


The Sacred Hill – Arunachela

Paul Brunton (October 21, 1898 – July 27, 1981) was probably born as Hermann Hirsch of German Jewish origin. Later he changed his name to Raphael Hurst, and then Brunton Paul and finally Paul Brunton. He was a philosopher, mystic and a  traveler.  He left a journalistic career to live among yogis, mystics, and holy men, and studied Eastern and Western esoteric teachings. Dedicating his life to an inward and spiritual quest, Brunton felt charged to communicate his experiences about what he had learned in the East to others. His works had a major influence on the spread of Eastern yoga and mysticism to the West. Taking pains to express his thoughts in lay person’s terms, Brunton was able to present what he had learned from the Orient and from ancient tradition as a living wisdom. His writings express his view that meditation and the inward quest are not exclusively for monks and hermits, but will also support those living normal, active lives in the Western world.

true teaching is always an epiphany; sometimes a clap of thunder…but often only a whisper, easily missed”

‘All Are Equal’ – Sri Ramana Maharshi

From The Unforgettable Years –

devotee stories from Arunachala.

Bhagavan would never tolerance any kind of preferential treatment. In fact he would repeatedly say he would be happy if the ‘others’ were shown greater consideration. Once Bhagavan stopped drinking buttermilk. Devaraja Mudaliar who used to sit near Bhagavan noticed this. “Bhagavan, we eat all the items sumptuously. But you keep giving up one item or the other. How can we bear this?” Bhagavan replied,  “They are only too ready to give me extra helpings. But when it comes to the devotees their hands are paralysed.” On enquiry I learnt that Bhagavan was provoked into making this remark because a young girl from Bangalore had been refused extra quantity of ‘sambar’ which she had asked for. All said and done there was the human weakness of the kitchen helpers.

Those who were sitting near Bhagavan and the old devotees would be looked after properly. Those who sat far away and the newcomers would be neglected.

Repeated statements from  Ramana that serivce to his devotees was the best form of service to him, would be of no avail. Hence he would stop eating or drinking some item/s, to draw the pointed attention of the kitchen-staff to impartiality. To care for all equally….

·**•.♥LOVE♥.•**·life·**•.♥LIFE♥.•**

Courtesy – RamanaMaharshi’s Ashram.

under our category Ramana Maharshi,  there are many  stories, about the life and times of this great guru.

Ramana Maharshi Story – Arunachala Stories and Pilgrimages


When I look at this YouTube of Ramana , I see only love. His eyes fueled by the universe speak of love, gentleness and a great compelling compassion. I’ve visited Ramana Maharshi’s ashram many times and always I’ve found there a sense of him in the peacefulness of the surroundings and in nature. I have not visited in 15 years now – maybe it has changed. I hope not.

♥.•`*•♥.•´*.¸.•´♥


IN 1948, I WAS in my thirty-ninth year. I lived in Madras in a good
place, with my wife and four charming children. I was the Madras Branch
Manager of a large British firm with its Indian Head Office in Calcutta.
Being in happy circumstances, I did not feel the need for any religious
practices or spiritual inquiries. I was contented and enjoyed the
good life, accounting that as the purpose of living.

On an official tour with Inspector Parthasarathi, I was on the platform
of Villupuram Junction on a hot April day, waiting for the train to
Katpadi Junction. We were to visit Tiruvannamalai. While Parthasarathi
and I were getting into a first class compartment, we saw a young
man of about 25 years, trying to enter the same compartment through
the next door.

The man was so fat that he found great difficulty getting aboard.
He heaved his huge body this way and that, while another man on the
platform, obviously his servant, pushed him forward. The man was perspiring
profusely and looking ashamed at the curious way people, including
Parthasarathi and myself, watched his sorry state. He got in somehow,
and occupied the cubicle next to ours.

When the train had run for some minutes the man join us. He introduced
himself as Ratilal Premchand Shah and started talking about himself.
Ratilal was a Saurashtra Gujarati Vaishya, born and brought up in
Gondal. The only son of his father who was one of the richest merchants
of that city. He had been married for six years. Corpulent from his
tenth year, he had been unable to do anything useful since that age.
Now at 25, he was just a huge mass of fat and misery.

Ratilal had left school at the age of 12 after passing standard four
with great difficulty. He never read books or periodicals. In the
last week of March, Ratilal had a vision while asleep. He saw an ascetic
dressed in only a loin-cloth, smiling and beckoning to him for quite
some time. He stood clearly before Ratilal’s mental eye when he awoke.
Ratilal did not speak to anyone about the vision. Two days later,
his wife was reading a Gujarati magazine, and Ratial looking over
her shoulders, saw the picture of the ascetic he had seen in his vision.

His wife told him that the ascetic was Bhagavaan Ramana Maharshi of
Tiruvannamalai, and that the Maharshi possessed rare spiritual gifts.
Ratilal at once went to his father and arranged a journey to Tiruvannamalai
with the trusted family servant. He knew nothing about Bhagavaan,
only what his wife had told him from the magazine article. He felt
sure though that all of his suffering was going to end as soon as
he reached the Guru’s Ashram.

Parthasarathi said that he had Darshan of Bhagavaan many times and
also read a great deal of books about him. He assured Ratilal that
the lad’s faith would prove to be worthwhile. The two young men talked
all the way to Tiruvannamalai, which took more than two hours. I was
reading a novel, but was really listening intently to their conversation.
At Tiruvannamalai Station, Ratilal was received by a local merchant
with whom his father had arranged his stay. Parthasarathi and I proceeded
to the Travellers’ Bungalow.

It was four o.clock when we took our rest and had tiffin. Parthasarathi
knew that I was a business-like Manager, and not likely to waste a
single moment. He said we could visit the market, if I wanted to now,
and was very surprised when I said: “No, Parthasarathi! We will go
and have Darshan of Bhagavaan first. Then if there is time, we will
go to the temple. Let the Company’s business wait!”

It was about five o.clock when Parthasarathi and I entered Ramana’s
Ashram. Where we walked around Bhagavaan’s Mother’s samadhi. (grave)
Then we walked towards the verandah. There were some fifty people
sitting there. Ratilal, his servant and his host merchant were also
there. Bhagavaan though, was not. The visitors talked in whispers,
trying to find out where he was.

After waiting for some ten minutes, and still no Bhagavaan, Parthasarathi
suggested that we view the Ashram compound.
After our inspection, we were on the way back to the verandah by another
side, when we heard a childish voice, “Chee! Asaththe! (Chut! You
naughty!).” We could not see any children around, and therefore cast
our eyes carefully to find out where the voice came from? Then we
observed some movement among the leaves of the Bringal, and other
plants in the kitchen garden, aside the verandah’s end. Looking at
the quarter more intently, we saw a small goat, a little monkey and
a squirrel, and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi! He was sitting on his haunches
with his legs folded.

The goat nestled between Bhagavan’s knees; the monkey had its head
resting on his right knee; the squirrel sat perched on his left palm.
He picked ground nuts from a piece of paper with his right hand fingers,
and one by one fed the goat, the monkey and the squirrel, and himself
last, strictly in that order.

His remarks appeared to have been addressed to the monkey which had
tried to snatch the nut he was going to place between the squirrel’s
lips. As we watched, the foursome went on enjoying the nut meal. All
the four members seemed to be equally happy, and the way they looked
at one another and kept close together was very touching. The goat,
the monkey and the squirrel, and Bhagavan too, had obviously forgotten
their differences in species.


And we too, looking on, saw all the four only as four varied forms
of the same creation. I cannot find words to describe clearly the
thoughts and feeling which passed through my mind then. The vision
of the Supreme Cosmic Consciousness appeared as a flash of lightning,
and disappeared in the grossness that I was. The split second of the
duration of that vision contained the essence of all existence, knowledge
and bliss, Sat-Chid-Ananda!

The nut meal was over. Bhagavaan threw the paper away, and said, “Ponkoda!”
(go away, brats!) just like any common man speaking to his wee grand-children.
The goat the monkey and the squirrel left. Bhagavaan got up. Parthasarathi
and I slipped off hurriedly, feeling guilty of trespass into the Divine,
but not sorry.

Soon after we resumed our seats on the verandah, Bhagavaan came to
his cot. He stood still for a few minutes, facing us. But I cannot
say he looked at us. His eyes appeared permanently fixed on something
far above and beyond the confines of this earth. They did not seem
to be instruments for looking at all, but screens to shut out the
material world from him, so he might concentrate more on the Light
within. Sparks of flame shot out through the holes of the screen at
times, sparks which cooled the objects on which they fell, and penetrated
all the coverings of gross material around the objects and lighted
up the wicks of consciousness inside them.

All of us got up and fell at full length towards Bhagavaan. He held
up his right palm till we had resumed our seats. Then he sat on his
cot, reclining on the pile of cushions at its head, putting his left
palm to his temple. We sat and looked at his face. It wore the same
expression, or lack of expression, with which he had stood before
us. He continued to sit in the same position and with the same look;
we continued to look at him. No one spoke or made any attempt to speak.
But the confrontation was not a dead silence; it was a very live experience
in which the innermost being of each one of us communed with the Glory
of the Supreme Cosmic Consciousness which Bhgagavaan was.
I was numb with the appalling realisation that the Glory resting on
the cot was the same that had dwelt in the form of stillness, that
I had seen minutes ago, eating groundnuts in the intimate company
of small animals.

 


Bhagavaan got up from the cot. Then we all stood up. As we left, I
felt a strange and hitherto-unknown peace and joy inside me; the faces
of the others showed a similar condition of mind. There was a new
spring in Ratital’s gait as he walked to the Ashram gate; Bhagavaan’s
Grace had obviously started working inside his body.

Many things have happened to me since that memorable day in April
1948, causing domestic and financial troubles. But my inner life has
been always happy. Whenever I feel low, a vision of Bhagavaan in the
kitchen garden takes care of it.


In 1953, when I was in Rajkot, and employed as a Manager for an automobile
firm. One day, a man of about thirty came into my office and accosted
me with the question, “Don’t you recognise me, Sir?” “No, please,”
I replied, truthfully. The man continued: “I am Ratilal of Gondal,
Sir! Do you remember the Darshan of Bhagavaan Ramana Maharshi five
years ago?” I looked more attentively at the man. He was lean and
wiry, with his face aglow with health and happiness. I shook his hands
heartily and told him to be seated.

He complied and said: “Sir, Bhagavaan fulfilled his promise wonderfully
well. You see me. I am now managing our family business. I have a
son and another is on the way.” Ratilal closed his eyes in gratitude
to Bhagavaan. I too, closed my eyes, and relived that wonderful day.


Submitted by Mrs. M. Manwering, Cheshire.

Arunachala – a Journey Arunachala Stories/Pilgrimages

Reflections of Ramana Maharshi in Arunachala, 1994
– Last of The Old Days

ramana

 

The journey from Bangalore to Tiruvannamalai was long, hot and bumpy. The old Ambassador taxi entered the iron gates of the Ashram, where the driver, with flawless accuracy, manoeuvred the car to a standstill between two large sprawling Banyan trees.

I looked at my watch. Just after eight a.m. Not bad, I thought, as I began to smooth my ruffled clothes and wiped the sweat from my face in readiness to meet the Ashram manager.

Stepping out of the taxi, the morning air lifted my flagging spirits. A soft breeze blew gently, bringing the scent of sweet flowers. Immediately captivated by this tropical hide-a-way, I stooped to touch the ground in homage to the late Indian Sage, Ramana Maharshi. He had lived here for over fifty years until his death in 1950. Now his charming Ashram, Ramanashramam, remains a living testimony to his love for nature and his love for an interior life.

The small courtyard in which I stood vibrated with the song of birds. Monkeys and other small mammals, apparently unafraid, busily searched for food in the tropical foliage.

Gazing across the Ashram, I could see the hill Arunachala, her rugged appearance served as an ideal backdrop to the simple Ashram.

My taxi driver directed me to the verandah where a few people stood, and where eventually, I was ushered into the office and told to wait. Through similar experiences in other Indian Ashrams, I knew I could be there all morning. I anxiously sat down on the hard wooden bench and tried to compose myself.

Hanging from the office wall and in my direct line of vision, a large printed notice informed visitors that all rooms had to be reserved in advance. I hadn’t done this.

My anxiety became acute, I was about to leave, when a rather stern looking individual entered the office. The Ashram manager, I presumed – he did not have the same inviting air as I had experienced in the outer courtyard. I was soon to find out that without a reservation, it would be tough to secure a room. But after some tactful replies to his probing questions concerning my knowledge of Ramana Maharshi, he smiled at me in a conciliatory way and said, ‘Okay you can stay, six days only.’ He hastily directed me toward a quiet room near the Ashram library.

Alone in my room, I began to lazily reflect on my journey to Arunachala.


The Summer of 1993

rashram1

It had really begun the previous summer, when I had been travelling to Mysore to visit the Maharajas palace. Suddenly, the taxi driver pulled over and pointed out the small Ramana shrine as an interesting place to visit.

Anxious to complete my journey, I tried to dismiss the idea, but without success for my driver was an ardent devotee of the venerable sage.

When the taxi finally came to a stop in the secluded shrine courtyard, I’d immediately sensed an intangible calm. Casually, I entered the shrine with the intention of purchasing a book on the Maharshi, more to please the taxi driver than myself. But my heart leapt, when my eyes caught sight of a life size photograph of the Maharshi, placed on a raised platform at the far end of the hall.

Never before had I seen such a beautiful countenance. Moving closer to the platform, I began to study his eyes; great dark pools of compassion and understanding, unlike any I’d seen before. Their compelling gaze seemed to invite me to linger. Spellbound, I sat crossed-legged, staring at him, soon I began to feel the Maharshi’s presence, as if he was imparting something from his eyes to my heart. On that first encounter, I’d not only bought the book WHO AM I, but proceeded to buy every available book on the late great sage.

The books had kept me entranced throughout that long Summer in India. His message was simple and modest. It made no claims to occult powers and esoteric knowledge to amaze the mystery loving nature of his fellow countrymen or curious minded traveller. Yet, it gave inspiration and encouragement to a hard-headed Westerner like myself. He pointed out plainly and simply, the path inward, the journey from ignorance to self-recognition; something I had not seriously considered before, or at best given only scant lip service to.

What became clear to me during my reading, is that men like the Maharshi, and there are few, ensure the continuity down through history of a divine message from regions not easily accessible to us all. Man such as the Maharshi are rare indeed.

Also, the Sage did not come to argue anything with us, but to reveal our own divine nature. His rational teachings of Who am I, point to self-inquiry and the need to seek the pure essence of the Self. God is rarely mentioned in his teachings of Jnana Yoga. He simply puts forward a self-analysis which can be practised irrespective of any ancient theories or modern beliefs, and by so doing, he provides a way to true self-understanding. Thus, he fulfils the ancient Hindu scriptures, not by preaching but by practice.

The Maharshi had not become my guru, but his teachings had proved invaluable in my search for truth.

Absorbed in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed the time until a power cut suddenly halted the overhead fan. The air in the room became stifling.

I quickly unpacked; took a cool shower and changed into suitable walking clothes. Better, I thought, to explore Arunachala before the Ashram staff changed their minds about my allotted six day visit.

Before my trek up the hill to Ramana’s first tiny Ashram, Skandashramam, I stopped at a little coffee hut across the street from Arunachala. The owner, however, expressed concern about my proposed walk on the hill. He explained the sun, by mid-morning, would be too hot for such an ambitious hike. But I had made up my mind to go, and after all, I reassured myself, I could always turn back.

During my slow walk though Ramanashramam, I passed by the shady temple, where two old white and tan Pi-dogs lay sleeping on the temple verandah. Unlike most of their relations, their fat round bodies had never known hunger. Peacocks, their bright plumage glistening in the morning sun,stood as if on guard near the temple entrance.Few people could be seen. Having finished breakfast, most had retired to their rooms or had joined others, meditating in the Ashram Hall.

At the bridge, which divided the main Ashram from the mountain, I spotted a group of young children sitting under an enormous old Banyan tree, its spacious branches providing ample shade from the sun drenched hill. The girls in particular took my eye. Daintily dressed in bright frothy frocks, they brought colour and life to the otherwise dull green clumps of dry grass. A great photo opportunity I thought, as I reached for my camera, but before I had a chance to catch the adorable scene, the excited children gathered around and shouted all at once, “What is your name? Where do you come from?” These overused paraphrases contained the few English words known to the children.

Their warm smiles and gleeful conversation bolstered my dwindling confidence, after the cool reception of the Ashram staff.


Long Climb Up the Hill

rashram3

Leaving the children, I walked through an old rusty iron-gate opening and started my ascent. The hill looked surprisingly steep, but small wooden steps had been placed sensibly along the way, making the climb more inviting.

A young monk appeared from behind one of the boulders, his too lean body, clad only in an old faded towel, looked emaciated. He muttered something about my shoes; that perhaps I should remove them. His intense eyes observed my awkwardness as I sat to remove them. He pointed with his stick to a spot near a rock where they would be safe. Once assured I would not sneak back and retrieve them, he ambled off to his rocky retreat. My climb to the summit would be in true pilgrimage style – bare footed! However, a few yards along, I have to confess, my feet began to feel the heat from the stones and I returned to find my shoes.

With my head bowed I concentrated on the stone steps that led to the summit. Here and there among the rocks, I spotted a few ragged beggars and the occasional stoic monk absorbed in meditation; but none glanced in my direction.

Young trees grew in abundance along the pathway, their large trunks, baked white by the sun, supported masses of long thin branches ladened with brittle silvery leaves. Their razor sharp texture caused them to rustle in the calm breeze, providing a pleasing sound. I was told later the trees had been planted to replace the native trees that had been cut down on the hill – apparently in Ramana’s day, Arunachala had been a jungle area. Here and there between the steps grew tiny clumps of brilliant blue flowers. Every step of my climb seemed to reveal some exquisite detail of nature.

I stopped to catch my breath, behind me I could see Ramana’s Ashram quivering in the heat far below. Had I climbed so far? It would be ridiculous to return now. Slightly slower than before, my climb continued.

My thoughts returned to the coffee hut proprietor, he had warned me about the venomous snakes and scorpions on the mountain. I had gingerly responded that Arunachala being holy ground, surely I would be protected! Brave words from the relative safety of the coffee hut, but now isolated and alone, I began to feel uneasy and whispered a prayer to Arunachala.

I had been told many times in this ancient land: when a holy name is uttered by a genuine believer, its power would protect. Would the sacredness of Arunachala protect me? My analytical mind wanted to believe so, and in true Hindu tradition, I continued to cite the name ‘Arunachala’ softly, with each step up the rocky terrain.

Gradually the trees gave way to more boulders, they looked larger and brighter here. Their brown, red and grey rocks shone in the dazzling sunlight. An awesome silence, both majestic and haunting, abounded, an infinite stillness; this had not been apparent from below.

The climb became arduous, the now fire-hot stones irritated even my sandal clad feet. Also to add to my discomfort, an angry red swelling began to appear on my left ankle. In the distance, I could see Skandashramam.

The boiling sun shone relentlessly, “Why didn’t I bring water?”, I muttered to myself.

Another alarming thought came to mind. Would there be any in the tiny uninhabited Ashram? In my impatience to climb Arunachala, I had forgotten to buy the required bottled water. For a few seconds, I stopped to contemplate the situation.

My thoughts were interrupted by a flock of tiny colourful birds flying overhead, their lively abundant calls reassuring, among the otherwise lonely peaks. A few large yellow butterflies, the size of hummingbirds, fluttered through the scrub. Suddenly, a rushing sound came from the undergrowth. There, a bright green lizard, alarmed by my nearness, darted out of the scrub and scampered back again! Startled by its sudden scaly appearance, I jumped backward and nearly fell. The swelling on my ankle began to ache and on closer examination it looked like some sort of insect bite.

Above me, my eyes caught a slight movement. Squinting to see more clearly, I spotted someone perched on a huge rock, draped in orange clothing and frantically waving in my direction. From my obscure position, the figure resembled a brilliant orange butterfly. Good, I thought, someone to guide me. Waving back, I motioned for help.

Within minutes, the figure had weaved his way through the rocks and had reached me. My orange butterfly proved to be a tall stick-thin young man whose bright orange robes indicated he was a young monk of sorts.

He shyly suggested that I was lost, his faltering English aided by an abundant use of hand signals and broad smiles.

“No, I am not lost, but I need water,” came my halting reply.

“There is fresh sweet water from the spring inside the Ashram, let me take you. Come.”

Following the monk, we reached the small ashram without further problems.


Skandashramam


The tiny iron-gate entrance appeared like the Gates of Heaven. The lad quickly brought a tin mug of clear spring water. No longer worried about it being bottled, I quickly drank. It was cool and sweet, as promised! I lazily sat down on an old stone bench and rested my tired feet.

Looking around the small ashram courtyard, I noticed only a few small buildings. They appeared to have been carved out of the mountain side.

The entrance to Ramana’s room was via the small meditation cave from which the large Arunachaleswara temple could be seen far below. It resembled an Egyptian monument. There were nine Gopuras which looked like Pyramids, with their tops chopped off ! I marvelled at the workmanship. Even at a distance, I could see the decorative carvings which adorned the towering Gopuras. Sadly with the abundance of traffic down in the town, I could hear the all too familiar street traffic as it reverberating off the mountain. This had not been the case in Ramana’s day and how peaceful a place Skandaashram must have been then.

In this tiny cave, Ramana had sat day after day greeting disciples and visitors. Here he had taught the age old wisdom of detachment and solitude, and although he sought no publicity, no following, people came from all over India to visit the Sage.


rashram2

To my left, a little doorway led me into a dark, cool, stone room. The sudden change from dazzling sunlight to this shadowy room affected my eyes. I couldn’t see at all, but soon my eyes adjusted to the darkness and I became aware of sweet smelling joss sticks, from which soft spirals of silvery smoke danced upward. The spirals in themselves, weaved a sort of magic, as if bringing alive once more a by-gone age. A soft sort of enchantment – that I can’t quite describe. As my vision adjusted to the darkness, I noticed a photo of Ramana. The young monk lit a candle and there, in front of me, life-like, an enormous aged picture of Sri Ramana. His warm gaze and half-smiling lips gave encouragement and lifted the uncertainly from this solitary pilgrimage.

The lad whispered, “This is where Ramana lived”, while pressing a few sticky Jasmine flowers into my hand. Dutifully, I placed the pretty creamy petals in the customary position above Ramana’s picture. Silently, I offered the usual prayers for protection and peace.

A quick glance around the room revealed it was empty. The dark walls, with few cavities for windows, seemed utterly austere.

This tiny ashram, with only the barest of essentials, had been Ramana’s home, and that of his mother for 6 years. How cold and lonely it must have been. Had Ramana ever missed the warmth of kith and kin? His mother had become his disciple, she had worshipped her enigmatic son, but he had stopped identifying with her since the day he had thrown his Sacred Brahman Thread into the temple pool, in Tiruvannamalai.

The discarding of the sacred thread had been symbolic for, with it, he had discarded all worldly attachments.

Her room, no larger than his, with its equally sparse interior, appeared even more cold and gloomy. Had she tried to make it comfortable, I wondered? Doubtless, her busy days as the Ashram cook and supervisor did not leave her time to ponder on frivolous worldly things.

I emerged back into the sunlight and sat down near the meditation cave. The total absence of man-made anythings gave the ashram an assurance of quiet repose. I felt strangely aware of Ramana’s presence for his enduring memory imbued every rock, and his ethereal vibrations remained captured for all time in this tiny remote retreat.

Wanting to avoid being sun-baked as well as foot sore, I strolled slowly to the tiny spring where cool, clear water gushed from the craggy rocks. Cupping my hands to catch some of the flow, I felt thoroughly refreshed.

Enjoying the moment, I leisurely bathed my sore ankle, wrapped it in a damp handkerchief, and strolled over to a huge shady Mango tree, whose heavy trunk grew horizontally over the small stone Ashram wall.

What a majestic view this tree had of the holy hill. I stood admiring its protracted branches as they drooped over the path in greeting to each pilgrim. Beside and almost hidden, a solitary coconut tree had grown to an enormous height to reach the sunlight.

With my guide leading the way, we left behind the Ashram entrance and cautiously, followed the hazardous pathway leading down to a small leafy grotto. By myself, I would not have found the solitary cave, for it had been well hidden between huge boulders and trees. There, built onto the cave entrance, sat a tiny whitewashed hut. Inside this small abode, a long red bench took up most of the living area. This was known as the front room. Here, Ramana had slept.

The cave, directly behind the little room, was hot and oppressive and as I peered through the entrance, wave upon wave of stifling, musty air came from its blackish opening. As my eyes gradually became accustomed to the dull and dingy hollow, I could see the shadowy silhouettes of people dotted around the dim interior.

Pondering on this picture of gloomy asceticism, my eyes came to rest on the Holy Linga – the Shiva symbol of creation, which Ramana had constructed long ago. The egg-shaped Linga, beautifully positioned on a raised platform, provided inspiration for meditators. Garlands of Marigolds, intertwined with tiny red Rose buds, together with orange and cream Jasmine lay in a neat circle, around the Linga. Even these dainty blooms had turned sticky and sour in the fierce heat but their heavenly scent was still hanging in the air.


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Although curious, nothing could induce me to enter the cave, instead, I sat at the small airy entrance engrossed in thoughts of a distant time.

This is where the young teenager, Ramana had lived; all alone in this small room his only company, the mountain and her denizens. But what was it that made Arunachala so special to him? She is special, of course. Her craggy peaks, adorned by beautiful tropical foliage, had seen to that. But Ramana had thought of Arunachala as his Guru, and he had never left her.

It came to mind that many people would have considered Ramana’s life to be one, not of self-denial, but of retreat from the hard drudgery of human life. But Ramana had lived alone to allow his spiritual life to develop and blossom on the holy mountain. It couldn’t have been at all easy for such a young lad.

For he knew, all too soon, others would join him and break his beloved solitude. They would delve deeply into his teachings, and bathe in his pure vibrations of perfect peace.

Ramana was destined to became a tireless teacher; a teacher mainly given to silent instruction. But his message, though short, and of few words, was soon to be recorded in many spiritual books, and would become accessible to us all.

No, Ramana had not retreated from the world. He had given the world a clear and concise message: that man is an elevated soul, and a greater Being suckled him than his own earthly mother.

There on Arunachala, I could accept Ramana’s message, but I doubted if I could achieve anything more than a quiet acceptance in my present state of development; for my feet were forever restless, with a mind to match. Surrender, yes, how I’d love to, but the

soul, no doubt, must be ready.

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My thoughts were broken by the cave attendant who came and stood beside me. Wearing the typical dhoti (man’s robe) and with a towel draped over his shoulders, he looked quite Indian. We began to talk.

He was from South America, he said, but had lived here for a long time. We began to discuss Arunachala. First he had come only to visit, but had felt a sense of belonging. After much contemplation, he had decided his destiny lay here with Arunachala.

Everyday, he climbed Arunachala to attend the grotto, and had lovingly restored the little hut, spending many days painting the exterior and clearing away rubble that had gathered over the years. Due to his sadhana (penance), this quiet and gracious man had been given a permanent visa to live here. After the short conversation, I left the attendant to his duties. It was a relief to be back in the sunshine.

Leaving my young monk-guide, I embarked on a solitary descent, but a wrong turn led me to a small village, somewhere near the foot of the hill. To my surprise, the village verged on the town of Tiruvannamalai.

I walked quickly by the little colour-washed huts and small paint-peeled houses. Many of the residents were already in their yards busily preparing their evening meals. The air, heavily laden with delicious smells of aromatic herbs and spices, breathed their appetising sweetness through the tiny village streets.

An old man, lean and bent, sold tiny colourful piles of fine powder; purple, pink, red, and saffron from a large silver tray. A young woman stooped to examine this colourful selection. Her long lustrous hair, adorned with tiny jasmine flowers, fell almost to the ground, hiding her faded green sari. She was typical of South Indian women, who have a very special beauty when young.

Here, I hired a waiting rickshaw. It’s dented yellow exterior implied that it had seen better days, but I decided to risk a jaunt in this tenuous conveyance. The precarious driver dived in and out of the cars and trucks, but I felt too tired to care.

Outside the Ashram gates, the dare-devil driver demanded 7 rupees twice the normal fare! I didn’t argue, after all, it had been a wonderful day.

Ramana Maharshi, ‘At First Glance’ – Sri Ramana

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At first glance was taken from my story  that I wrote in 1994 while travelling in India.

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At first  Glance

” I entered the shrine with the intention of purchasing a book on the Maharshi, more to please the taxi driver than myself. But my heart leapt, when my eyes caught sight of a life size photograph of the Maharshi, placed on a raised platform at the far end of the hall.

Never before had I seen such a beautiful countenance. Moving closer to the platform, I began to study his eyes; great dark pools of compassion and understanding, unlike any I’d seen before. Their compelling gaze seemed to invite me to linger. Spellbound, I sat crossed-legged, staring at him, soon I began to feel the Maharshi’s presence, as if he was imparting something from his eyes to my heart. On that first encounter, I’d not only bought the book WHO AM I, but proceeded to buy every available book on the late great sage.

The books had kept me entranced throughout that long Summer in India. His message was simple and modest. It made no claims to occult powers and esoteric knowledge to amaze the mystery loving nature of his fellow countrymen or curious minded traveller. Yet, it gave inspiration and encouragement to a hard-headed Westerner like myself. He pointed out plainly and simply, the path inward, the journey from ignorance to self-recognition; something I had not seriously considered before, or at best given only scant lip service to.

What became clear to me during my reading, is that men like the Maharshi, and there are few, ensure the continuity down through history of a divine message from regions not easily accessible to us all. Man such as the Maharshi are rare indeed.

Also, the Sage did not come to argue anything with us, but to reveal our own divine nature. His rational teachings of Who am I, point to self-inquiry and the need to seek the pure essence of the Self. God is rarely mentioned in his teachings of Jnana Yoga. He simply puts forward a self-analysis which can be practised irrespective of any ancient theories or modern beliefs, and by so doing, he provides a way to true self-understanding. Thus, he fulfils the ancient Hindu scriptures, not by preaching but by practice.

The Maharshi had not become my guru, but his teachings had proved invaluable in my search for truth.”

Equality Is The Word

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From The Unforgettable Years –

devotee stories from Arunachala.


Bhagavan would never tolerate any kind of preferential treatment. In fact he would repeatedly say he would be happy if the ‘others’ were shown greater consideration. Once Bhagavan stopped drinking buttermilk. Devaraja Mudaliar who used to sit near Bhagavan noticed this. “Bhagavan, we eat all the items sumptuously. But you keep giving up one item or the other. How can we bear this?” Bhagavan replied,  “They are only too ready to give me extra helpings. But when it comes to the devotees their hands are paralysed.” On enquiry I learnt that Bhagavan was provoked into making this remark because a young girl from Bangalore had been refused extra quantity of ‘sambar’ which she had asked for. All said and done there was the human weakness of the kitchen helpers.

Those who were sitting near Bhagavan and the old devotees would be looked after properly. Those who sat far away and the newcomers would be neglected.

Repeated statements from  Ramana that service to his devotees was the best form of service to him, would be of no avail. Hence he would stop eating or drinking some item to draw the pointed attention of the kitchen-staff to impartiality.


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Courtesy – RamanaMaharshi’s Ashram.

Lakshmi, The Cow – Sri Ramana Maharshi

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Lakshmi The Cow


Sometime in 1926, four years after Sri Ramana Maharshi had come to live at the foot of the holy hill, Arunachala, beside the samadhi (grave) of his mother, a gentleman named Arunachala Pillai of Kumaramangalam, near Gudiyatham, entered the ashram with a cow and her young female calf and offered them to Sri Ramana in token of his devotion. Sri Ramana tried to dissuade him, pointing out that there were no proper facilities at the ashram for looking after the cow and calf and told the devotee that since he had already presented them to him, that was enough and he could now take them back with him and look after them not as his own, but as Sri Ramana’s.

All this persuasion, however, was lost on the devotee who insisted on leaving the two animals with Sri Ramana and exclaimed: “I have made my humble gift and would not take it back even if my throat were to be cut.”

Seeing his insistence and the devotion behind it, the devotee Ramanatha, who was then living nearby, declared energetically: “I will look after the cow and the calf.” Now this Ramanatha was a frail, puny man from whom one would normally never expect any vehemence, but on this occasion he seemed like one inspired and said, smiting his chest, “Here I am! I make myself responsible for the upkeep of these animals.” So it was that, owing to the pure devotion of Arunachala Pillai and the unusual vehemence of Ramanatha; the cow and her calf came to live at the ashram.

They were well cared for but after three months they were taken to town and handed over to one Pasupathi Aiyar, who kept a dairy. A year past and all went well. One day Pasupathi decided to take the cows to Sri Ramana to have his darshan. The cow and calf were both bathed and groomed, as custom requires, before the visit to Sri Ramana’s ashram.

rshrineThe Shrine -Sri Ramana Asrham

After the visit, the calf seemed to have noted the road and the lay-out of the ashram, because the very next morning she came again by herself and appeared before Sri Ramana. Such was the attraction that Sri Ramana held for her, from that day onwards she used to come alone from the town every morning, spend the day at the ashram, and find her way back to Pasupathi Aiyar’s house in the town in the evening. Moreover, while at the ashram, her attraction to Sri Ramana was so strong that she would scarcely leave his presence. He treated her very graciously and would give her plantains or any delicacy that was brought to him. Thus passed several happy years of almost continuous satsang (association) with Sri Ramana, during which time she came to be known affectionately at the ashram as Lakshmi.

In 1930, Lakshmi gave birth to a calf and she and her young one were brought to live permanently at the ashram. And for many years, she remained one of the most prominent of the ashram residents. Sri Ramana has recounted a number of incidents in the life of Lakshmi testifying to her almost human intelligence. He used to say that although she could not speak she understood everything and acted as intelligently as a human being. She used to come and stand by his side regularly at meal-times and accompany him to the dining-hall. Indeed, so punctual was she that if Sri Ramana was engaged elsewhere and had forgotten the time, she would know and would go to Sri Ramana to remind him that it was time to eat, as though her devotion gave her a special right to him, taking no notice of the ashram inmates or visitors. At that time a garden was being dug at the ashram with some difficulty owing to water shortage. It sometimes happened that Lakshmi would go into the garden and cause havoc and eat the young plants. Those in charge of the garden would come and complain to Sri Ramana. He, however, always took her side and defended her: “She is not to blame. She went where she could find food. If you didn’t want her to go there you ought to have fenced the garden in properly to keep her out.” Now there were ashram workers who looked after the cattle and garden, and they no longer allowed Lakshmi to visit Sri Ramana frequently, but whenever she could slip away she would go to him, be greeted and patted by him, receive some bananas or whatever else was available and then go back.

As the ashram grew, the number of cattle kept there increased and a fine stone cow-house was built. Lakshmi walked into the presence of Sri Ramana shortly before the time fixed for the opening ceremony and led him back to the new building. It had been decided she would be the first to enter. She was bathed and decorated for entering her new abode, but then she slipped away and went to Sri Ramana and sat down before him. She would not budge until he went too, so that he was the first to enter the new house and she stepped in behind him. After a few years, the cattle population increased. Lakshmi herself added nine of her progeny to the number, and it is remarkable that no less than three of her calves were born on the exact day of Sri Ramana’s birthday.

rashram4The Ramana Asrham Entrance

Thus, Lakshmi continued through the years as one of the favoured devotees of Sri Ramana. As with many human devotees, the constant association of the early years gradually became unnecessary and occasional visits sufficed to sustain the flow of his Grace. Whenever she visited him he would pay attention to her, pat her, stroke her and feed her with plantains, rice cakes and sweet rice. She was particular about her food. She did not much like ordinary plantains, so when she came, Sri Ramana would show great solicitude and say, “Go and see if there are not any hill-fruit”, and the attendants would run about attending to the needs of this devotee.

Her great devotion and the possessive way in which Lakshmi would always approach Sri Ramana and the great kindness and attention he showed her convinced many of the devotees that there was some special bond between them and that although Lakshmi now wore the form of a cow, she must have attached herself to Him and won his Grace by love and surrender in her previous birth. It seemed hard to explain in any other way the great solicitude and tenderness that Sri Ramana always showed in his dealings with her, because, although he was all love, he was normally very undemonstrative and the open expressions of his Grace that Lakshmi used to receive from him were quite exceptional. Indeed, many of those who had been for a long time in close touch with Sri Ramana, believed that Lakshmi was a reincarnation of Keeraipatti, the `Old Lady of the Greens,’ who had know Sri Ramana from his earliest days at Tiruvannamalai and had shown very great devotion to him during his early years at Virupaksha. She had served him in such ways as she could and occasionally prepared food for him almost up to the time of her death in 1921.

Sri Ramana never definitely stated that Lakshmi was this old lady; nevertheless, the belief was supported by various remarks he made spontaneously or in unguarded moments when the circumstances gave rise to them. His constant insistence that the Self is neither born nor reborn and his injunction to realise the Self behind the illusion of birth, death and rebirth explains why he would never say openly that such and such a person was reborn. It is, therefore, not surprising that no one can quote any open statement by Sri Ramana about Lakshmi and the `Old Lady of the Greens.’ Although many who heard Sri Ramana refer to the two on various occasions, felt almost certain that they were the same and that the great devotion of the old lady had caused her to return in this humble guise to work out her remaining karma at the feet of Sri Ramana.

On January 26th, Sri Ramana was in reminiscent mood and gave the following account of the old lady to his devotees:

“Keeraipatti was already living at the big temple in the town when I first went there. She stayed at the Subrahmanyam shrine in the temple and used to feed the sadhus. Later she began bringing food to me from a (kammata – blacksmith caste) lady, but after some time the kammata lady began to bring the food herself instead of sending it through Keeraipatti. At that time, Keeraipatti had matted locks. Later, when I went to live at the Virupaksha Cave, she was staying in Guha Namasivayar Temple and had shaved off her hair. She lived in the mantapam and used to worship the image of Namasivayar and other images carved on its walls and pillars. The priest would come and do puja to the image in the temple, but she used to worship the images on the walls of the mantapam where she stayed and offered food to them.

peacockPeacocks are a familiar feature In the Ashram Grounds.

When she got up in the morning she would go out for a walk on the small hill and from there to where our ashram now is and then on to Skandashram and back to where she was staying. On the way she would collect fuel and cow-dung and carry them in a bundle on her back and hip. She would also gather all kinds of green leaves for cooking. She had only one pot and she would first boil the water for her bath in it and then cook her rice and the sauce for it. Then she would prepare some dish out of the leaves she had gathered, all in the same pot. She would offer the food to the images on the walls and pillars and then come and give it to me, and only afterwards she would go and eat some herself. In the evening, she would go into the town to beg, and there was not a house in town she did not know.

She would come to me and say: `A generous woman has given me a handful of broken rice and I have made a gruel out of it.’ But if we went to see, there would be a big pot full of broken rice and various other provisions. That was the sort of person she was. She was very much attached to me. I sometimes used to go with her and help her gather her leaves and vegetables, I also helped her in cleaning and preparing the vegetables for cooking, and then I would stay and eat with her. She died before we came here, that is before 1922. She was buried near here, under a tamarind tree opposite the Dashinamurti shrine.”

 

On June 17th 1948, Lakshmi fell ill and on the morning of the 18th, at around 10 o’clock in the morning, Sri Ramana went to see her. He caressed her and said, “Amma, do you want me to be near you now?” He looked into her eyes and placed his hand on her head as though giving diksha ( initiation ). He put his hand over her heart also and then caressed her, placing his cheek against her face. When he had convinced himself that her heart was pure, free from all vasanas ( desires ), entailing rebirth and centred solely on him, he took leave of her and returned to the hall.

Shortly before the end, she licked up a little sweet rice that had been placed before her. Her eyes were calm and peaceful. She left her body at 11.30 a.m., quite peacefully.

She was buried with proper funeral rites and with great ceremony, near the graves of a deer and a crow and a dog already buried there on Sri Ramana’s instructions. A stone tomb was built over her grave, surmounted by a likeness of her. Her epitaph reads: “On Friday, the 5th of Ani, in the bright fortnight, in Sukla Paksham on Dvadasi in Visaka nakshatra in Sarvadhari year, that is on 18.6.48, the cow Lakshmi attained Mukti (Liberation).”

 

On my next visit to the ashram after the tomb was finished, I read the stanza and asked Bhagavan whether the use of the word ‘mukti’ in it was just tradition, as when we say that some one has attained samadhi, meaning that he has died, or whether it really meant Nirvana and he replied that it meant ( liberation ) Nirvana.

Courtesy – Ashram of Sri Ramana Maharshi- The Mountain Path