From ‘Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi – Enchanting and Uplifting Reminiscences of 160 persons’ published by Sri Ramana Kendram, Hyderabad
Photo: courtesy Wikipedia
The earliest Western seeker to come under the Swami’s influence (in 1911) was F H Humphreys…..When asked how he could help the world, Sri Ramana replied, “Help yourself, and you will help the world. You are not different from the world, nor is the world different from you.”
Paul Brunton, a British journalist, who lived near Sri Ramana for a few weeks in 1930, writes: “I like him because he is so simple and modest when an atmosphere of authentic greatness lies so palpably around him; and also because he is so totally without any traces of pretension and he strongly resists every effort to canonize him during his life time”
…He emphasized the unity of Being and its accessibility through one’s own efforts. According to him, the practical path to realization is atma-vichara, the search for the Self, through constant and deep meditation on the question Who am I? The approach is neither a religion nor a philosophy. It entails no belief, no scholarship and no psychological doctrine.
In Sri Ramana’s view the trouble afflicts us due to the mistake of limiting ourselves to the body. Constant self-questioning helps us to understand and imbibe the true knowledge about our identity, which is our Higher Self (atman), residing in the body.
……….The monkey-mind which is only a bundle of thoughts, would eventually vanish through persistent and serious meditation on the question Who am I?
The gist of his message is: “Pursue the enquiry, ‘Who am I?’ relentlessly. Analyse your entire personality. Try to find out where the ‘I’ thought begins. Go on with your meditations. Keep turning your attention within. One day the wheel of thought will slow down and an intuition will mysteriously arise. Follow that intuition, let your thinking stop and it will eventually lead you to the goal.”
………Hui Neng who said: “The only difference between a Buddha and the average man is that one realizes what the other discards”
……..The Maharshi…..said, “He is a real sadhu in whose presence you get an indescribable peace without making any effort”
Bhagavan treated animals and birds with great affection and concern. Sometimes a couple of monkeys would walk into the meditation hall. Some devotees used to get agitated. Bhagavan would gently call the monkeys and give them cashewnuts or groundnuts. They would go away screeching with delight. Sometimes a squirrel would scramble up the couch. Bhagavan would fondle it and give it whatever was available and it would leave without disturbing anyone. Similarly a peacock would come and get some puffed rice from his hand.
……..Maurice Frydman, a Polish Jew…..plied Bhagavan with ingenious pleas for practical guidance for self-realization……..When pressed to say something, Bhagavan quoted from the Bible, “Be still and know that I am God”, and added a rider that the Lord said ‘know’ and not ‘think’ that I am God
The Real is ever-present, like the screen on which the cinematographic pictures move. While the picture appears on it, the screen remains invisible. Stop the picture and the screen will become clear. All thoughts and events are merely pictures moving on the screen of Pure Consciousness, which alone is real.
In a cinema-show you can see pictures only in a very dim light or in darkness. When all lights are switched on, pictures disappear. So also in the floodlight of the Supreme atman all objects disappear.
He called nothing as his. He never asked for anything. He refused to have any special consideration shown to him……………..Bhagavan Sri Ramana was meticulously exact. His daily life was conducted with a punctiliousness that Indians today would have to call pure Western. In everything he was precise and orderly. The books were always in their places. The loincloth, which was all he wore, was gleaming white. The two clocks in the hall were adjusted daily to radio time.
“What is the purpose of Creation?”……………… “……Creation is the mirror for the ‘I’ to see itself.”
“………..Arunachala is God himself in the shape of a Hill. So special sanctity attaches to going around Arunachala.”
Bhagavan was invariably kind to all animals. Snakes and scorpions were never allowed to be killed. For dogs he always had a tender spot………..He seemed specially to love monkeys and often said that in many ways they were better than human beings………….He also told us know, at times, people would reincarnate in the body of some animal just for a chance to be near him. There is of course, the famous example of Lakshmi, the Ashram cow.
……….Bhagavan told me that in the early stages a person who was regularly meditating would usually at first go into a trance which would probably last for some thirty minutes, and if he continued with his tapas properly, such samadhi would become more frequent. A person can still carry on with the ordinary day-to-day business but he no longer identifies himself with the activities, but watches them like a dreamer watching a dream.
Bhagavan said that the mind was like a monkey, never still for one second, it was an almost hopeless task to try and quieten it: the best thing to do was to give it a productive employment and never allow it to fritter itself away. Let it concentrate on ‘Who am I’? And then there will be no room for any other thought.
Bhagavan never initiated by touch. He always refused to place his hands on a person’s head though very many besought him to do so.
Bhagavan said that principal sadhanas we should practice were to eat only sattvic food and observe satsanga. He laid no other rules. He said that the mind was entirely created by the food we ate.
Bhagavan never taught morals, and had no special abhorrence to sex. He once said in answer to troubled disciples in my hearing, “It is better to do it than to be always thinking about it.”
On Keats’ letter on ‘negative capability’ his passing comment was: “So there are Upanishads in English as in Sanskrit.”
Bhagavan’s mother was a very orthodox lady, full of caste prejudices and superstitions. Bhagavan did not tolerate any of her ideas. He criticized her many times and was quite ruthless in destroying all that stood in the way of her emancipation from ignorance and fear. When she refused to cook onions, which are taboo to a Brahmin widow, Bhagavan would show her one and say, “How mighty is this little bulb! It can stop my mother from going to heaven.”
………..personal instructions from Bhagavan. One of them was that we should get into a meditative state before going to sleep. We were also advised to go into meditation for sometime, immediately after getting out of bed.
Once a mongoose larger than the ordinary size, of golden hue [not grey as a mongoose is], made straight for Bhagavan. It sat on his lap for a while. Later, it……….disappeared into the bushes………Bhagavan said, “Who do you think he was? ……….He was a sage of Arunachala who took on this form to visit me. How many times I have told you that sages come to see me in various forms.”
The Ashram people requested Bhagavan to send the man away, for his presence would tarnish the good name of the Ashram. Bhagavan called the man and told him in front of everybody, “You have done some wrong, but you were too foolish not to keep it secret. Others do worse things, but they take care not to be caught. Now, the people who were not caught want you to leave the Ashram because you were caught.” The person was allowed to stay.
Bhagavan would allow nothing to go waste. Even a grain of rice or a mustard seed lying on the ground would be picked up, dusted and taken to the kitchen…….He said, “Yes, this is my way. Everything is in my care and I let nothing go waste. In these matters I am quite strict.”
As for giving leftovers to beggars, it was not possible because Bhagavan insisted that beggars be given the same food as everyone else, and not some inferior stuff. Even dogs had to be fed from the common meal. Bhagavan would come to the kitchen in the early hours, see the leftovers from the night before, warm them up, dilute them, and add some more ingredients to make them palatable.
……..He gave his smile, and said, “You came up from the bungalow this morning in a cart, yet you do not say, “The cart came.” You say, “I came up.” You did not make the mistake of identifying yourself with the cart. In the same way, look upon your body as you do the cart. Treat it well, and it will be a good servant and instrument. But do not be deceived into thinking it is ‘I’………….”
“If a mantra is repeated and attention directed to the source from where the mantra-sound is produced, the mind will be absorbed in that. That is tapas”
Bhagavan had a special fondness for children and often used to joke with them and touch or caress them, though he scrupulously avoided touching adults or being touched by them.
“If all thoughts are controlled, automatically the breath is also controlled. By intense and sustained practice it will become habitual. Controlling the breath through various yogic exercises is like putting brakes to the train when the engine is working. But by watching the source of the mind with full concentration, the thoughts would get controlled. This method will be more effective and easy. It is like shutting the power of the engine and thereby stopping the train completely.”
“……….All this book learning and capacity to repeat the scriptures by memory is absolutely of no use. To know the Truth, you need not undergo all this torture of learning. Not by reading do you get the Truth. Be Quiet that is Truth. Be Still, that is God”
…… “For shaving you use a mirror, don’t you? You look into the mirror and then shave your face; you don’t shave the image in the mirror. Similarly, all the scriptures are meant only to show you the way of Realization. They are meant for practice and attainment. Mere book learning and discussions are comparable to a man shaving the image in the mirror.”
Bhagavan insisted on parayana (repetition of sacred texts). He felt that though one may not be able to understand them in the first instance, gradually the ultimate meaning would flash by itself. Bhagavan also said that writing once is equivalent to reading ten times.
…….. “The aspirants should eat a very moderate quantity of whatever food comes their way and not stipulate, discriminate, or pick and choose in the matter of diet.” His insistence was on continuous one-pointed enquiry (Who am I?) like thailadhara – unbroken flow of oil while being poured from one vessel to another.
……..He placed his right hand on his right breast and continued, “Here lies the Heart, the dynamic, spiritual Heart. It is called hridaya and is located on the right side of the chest and is clearly visible to the inner eye of an adept on the spiritual path……”
……..a devotee asked, “Is it possible to revive the dead?” Bhagavan replied, “Jnanis, siddhis and yogis can restore life, but is it for this purpose that they have come?”
……we heard a child like voice say “Chee, asatthe!” (Fie, you creature!) We …………….saw a small goat, a little monkey and a squirrel and Bhagavan who was sitting on his haunches with his legs folded up to his breast. Bhagavan was holding a small paper packed in his left hand and was picking groundnuts from it with his right hand fingers to feed the goat, the monkey and the squirrel and himself, by turns. 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 four companions went on enjoying the eating. All the four seemed to be equally happy; the way they looked at one another and kept close together was touching
……..the nuts over, Bhagavan threw the paper away and said: “Pongoda!” (Go away, you fellows!), just as any old man speaking to his grandchildren. The goat, the monkey and the squirrel left and Bhagavan got up.
On the evening of April 14, 1950, we were massaging Bhagavan’s body. At about 5 p.m. he asked us to help him sit up. Precisely at that moment devotees started singing ‘Arunachala Siva.’ When Bhagavan heard the singing, his face lit up with radiant joy. Tears began to flow from his eyes and continued to flow for a long time. I was wiping them from time to time. I was also giving him spoonfuls of water boiled with ginger. Bhagavan’s breathing became gradually slower and slower and at 8.47 p.m. subsided quietly. There was no struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very moment, devotees who were outside saw a bright meteor in the sky, which reached the summit of the holy hill Arunachala and disappeared high in the sky.