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Ramana Maharshi, Stories of Absolute Being

Teaching in Words and Silence
Cooking and The Dining Hall
Ramana Maharshi and Animals
No Sense of Difference
Ramana’s Mother
Mother’s Liberation

 

Teaching in Words and Silence
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On a Shivaratri day, after dinner, Bhagavan was reclining on the sofa surrounded by many devotees. A Sadhu suggested that, since this was a most auspicious night, the meaning of the verse in praise of Dakshinamurti should be made clear. Bhagavan gave his approval and all were eagerly waiting for him to say something. He simply sat, gazing at us. We were gradually absorbed in ever deepening silence, which was not disturbed by the clock striking the hour, every hour, until 4 a.m. None moved or talked. Time and space ceased to exist. Bhagavan’s grace kept us at peace and silence for seven hours. In this silence, Bhagavan taught us the Ultimate, like Dakshinamurti. At the stroke of four Bhagavan asked us whether we had understood the meaning of the silent teaching. Like waves on the infinite ocean of bliss, we fell at Bhagavan’s feet.

T. K. Sundaresa Iyer
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

“What will it be like when one achieves Self-realization?” somebody asked. “The question is all wrong, one does not realize anything new,” said Bhagavan. “I do not get you, Swami.” “It is very simple. Now you feel like you are in the world. There you feel like the world is in you,” explained Bhagavan.

Tales of Bhagavan
Ramana Smrti Souvenir
Translated from Telugu by Surya Prasad

It was ever like this with him. Whoever went to him, he would go down to his level; his words and gestures, even his intonation of his voice, would adapt themselves to the make-up of the people around him. With children he was their playmate, to family people—a wise councilor, to pandits—a well of knowledge, to yogis—the God of will, the God of victory. He saw himself in them and their hearts would be bound to his feet in everlasting love. All who would come to see him would be charmed by his love and kindness, beauty and wisdom, and the overwhelming sense of unity he radiated like fire radiating heat. To some he would grant special vision, invisible to others; with some he would openly discourse. Crowds would gather round him and each one would see him differently. Even his pictures differ. A stranger would not guess that they are all of the same person.

My Life, My Light by Varanasi Subbalakshmiamma
Narrated to B. Vankatachalam. Translated from Telugu by C. Pat
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

At some other time another visitor started wailing before Bhagavan that he was being quite crushed under the enormity of his sins. Bhagavan asked: “When you sleep, are you a sinner?” “No, I am just asleep.” “If you are not a sinner, then you must be good.” “No, I am neither good nor bad when I am asleep. I know nothing about myself.” “And what do you know about yourself now? You say you are a sinner. You say so because you think you are. Were you pleased with yourself, you would call yourself a good man and stop telling me about your being a sinner. What do you know about good and evil except what is in your mind? When you see that the mind invents everything, all will vanish, and you will remain as you are.”

The Bhagavan I Knew by Voruganti Krishnayya
As told to G. Vankatachalam. Translated from Telugu by Surya Prasad
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

 


 

Cooking and The Dining Hall
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One day when I was still new in the kitchen, I served Bhagavan with a few more pieces of potato than the rest. Bhagavan noticed it and got very angry with me. He turned his face away and would not look at those who were serving food. I could not make out the cause of his anger and wondered who it was who had offended him. The women who worked in the kitchen would collect around him to take leave of him in the evening, after the work was over. Usually he would exchange a few words with us, enquire who was accompanying us, whether we had a lantern, and so on. That evening he gave me a sign to come near.

“What did you do tonight?”

“I don’t know Swami, have I done something wrong?”

“You served me more curry than others?”

“What does it matter” I did it with love and devotion.”

“I felt ashamed to eat more than others. Have you come all this way to stuff me with food? You should always serve me less than others.”

“But Bhagavan, how can I treat you worse than others?”

“Is this the way you hope to please me? Do you hope to earn grace through a potato curry?”

“Out of my love for you I committed a blunder. Forgive me, Bhagavan, I shall respect your wishes.”

“The more you love my people, the more you love me,” said Bhagavan and the matter was closed.

Eternal Bhagavan by Shantamma
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

He was very strict with us in the kitchen. His orders were to be obeyed to the last detail. No choice was left to us to guess or try on our own. We had to do so blindly as he taught us and, by doing so, be convinced that he was always right and that we would never fail if we put our trust in him. When I think of it now, I can clearly see that he used his work in the kitchen as a background for spiritual training. He taught us to listen to every word of his and to carry it out faithfully. He taught us that work is love for others, that we never can work for ourselves. By his very presence he taught us of God and that all work is His. He used cooking to teach us religion and philosophy.

Bhagavan in the Kitchen by Sampurnamma
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

He would allow nothing to go to waste. Even a grain of rice or a mustard seed lying on the ground would be picked up, dusted carefully, taken to the kitchen and put in its proper tin. I asked him why he gave himself so much trouble for a grain of rice. He said: “Yes, this is my way. Everything is in my care and I let nothing go to waste. In these matters I am quite strict. Were I married, no woman could get on with me. She would run away.” On some other day he said: “This is the property of my Father Arunachala. I have to preserve it and pass it on to His children. He would use for food things we would not even dream of as edible; wild plants, bitter roots and pungent leaves were turned into delicious dishes.

Bhagavan in the Kitchen by Sampurnamma
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

Yogis control themselves severely for long periods to reach the state to which Bhagavan would take us by making us work near him in the kitchen. The small tasks of daily life he would make into avenues to light and bliss. Whoever has not experienced the ecstasy of grinding, the rapture of cooking, the joy of serving iddlies to devotees, his devotees, the state when the mind is in the heart and the heart is in him and he is in the work, does not know how much bliss a human heart contains.

My Life, My Light by Varanasi Subbalakshmiamma
Narrated to B. Vankatachalam. Translated from Telugu by C. Pat
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

 


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Ramana Maharshi and Animals
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When Bhagavan was living on the hill, a big monkey came one day when he was having his food, and sat near him. Bhagavan was about to put a morsel of food into his mouth, but when he saw the monkey he gave it the morsel. The monkey took it, put it on the plate and gave Bhagavan a square slap on the cheek. “What do you mean, you fellow? Why are you angry? I gave you the first morsel!” exclaimed Bhagavan. Then he understood his mistake. It was a king monkey and he had to be treated in the right royal manner. Bhagavan called for a separate leaf plate and a full meal was served to the king, who ate it all with dignity and proudly went away.

Tales of Bhagavan
Ramana Smrti Souvenir
Translated from Telugu by Surya Prasad

One day the cow Lakshmi came to the Hall. She went straight to Bhagavan, put her head on Bhagavan’s shoulder and wept. Bhagavan sat very quietly and gently stroked her head. “Why are you so sad?” he would whisper in her ears. “Who has hurt you? Cheer up, my dear, stop crying. I am here to befriend you.” Lakshmi stopped crying, gave Bhagavan a few licks and went away, comforted.

The Bhagavan I Knew by Voruganti Krishnayya
As told to G. Vankatachalam. Translated from Telugu by Surya Prasad
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

 

Once a monkey tried to bring her new born baby through a window near Ramana’s couch. The attendants were preventing her. Ramana chided them as follows, “Don’t all of you bring your newborn babies to me? She also wants to do so. Why should you prevent her?”

Timeless in Time

 

When Bhagavan was staying in the Old Hall, he was literally surrounded by squirrels. They would run all over his couch, on his body, and even under his pillows. Ramana had to be extremely careful before he sat or leaned lest some squirrels be crushed by the weight of his body.

Timeless in Time

On June 17, 1948, Lakshmi fell ill. The following morning June 18 it looked as if her end was near. At about 10 o’clock in the morning Ramana went to her. He found her breathing hard and she was lying prostrate. Taking her head into his arms, stroking her neck, Ramana fixed his gaze in her eyes. Her breathing became steady immediately. Tears began to trickle from her eyes. Ramana’s eyes too overflowed as he looked at her with great love. How could those nearby hold by their emotions? He asked tenderly, “Amma (mother), do you want me to be near you? I must go now as people are waiting for me in the hall. But wherever I may be, I am always with you.” Then he placed his hand on her head as though giving diksha. He put his hand over her heart also and then caressed her, placing his cheek against her face. When he convinced himself that her heart was pure, free from all vasanas entailing rebirth and centred solely on him, he took leave of her and returned to the hall. Her eyes were calm and peaceful. She was conscious up to the end and left the body at 11:30 a.m. quite peacefully.

On her tomb was engraved an epitaph by Ramana which makes it quite clear that she attained liberation.

Timeless in Time

 


 

No Sense of Difference
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D.: Does one who has realized the Self lose the sense of ‘I’?

R.: Absolutely.

D.: Then there is not difference between yourself and myself, that man over there, my servant. Are all the same?

R.: All are the same, including those monkeys.

D.: But the monkeys are not people. Are they not different?

R.: They are exactly the same as people. All are the same in One Consciousness.

Timeless in Time

Once he saw somebody cutting a twig in the night for use the next morning as a toothbrush. “Can’t you let the tree sleep in peace?” he asked. “Surely you can have your twig in the daytime. Why not have a little sense and compassion? A tree does not howl nor can it bite or run away: it does not mean you can do anything to it?”

The Bhagavan I Knew by Voruganti Krishnayya
As told to G. Vankatachalam. Translated from Telugu by Surya Prasad
Ramana Smrti Souvenir

On special occasions like Jayanti and Mahapuja originally after the poor people were fed, eating in the dining hall would commence. Later it was changed such that when the poor started to eat their food it could be served in the main hall also. One day Bhagavan 1 that a poor man had not any share of food. Next day when the gong was struck, Bhagavan got up and want to the tree where the poor people were gathered and said, “If you will not give them food first, I will not come to the dining hall at all. I will stand under the tree and stretch out my hands for food like them and when I am given food I will eat it, go straight to the hall and sit.” Then the old practice was revived.

Timeless in Time

There was a large stone slab at Skandashrmam. Everyday tooth power and water would be kept there for use by Bhagavan. However cold it was, Bhagavan would come and sit on the slab and clean his teeth. In the rays of the early morning sun, Bhagavan’s body would shine beautifully. When it was very cold, devotees used to request him not to sit there, but Bhagavan would not listen to them. The reason for this was known only later. It was compassion for an elderly devotee Sowbagyathammal. She and a few others had taken a vow that daily they would eat only after they had seen Bhagavan and Seshadri Swami. They used to climb the hill to have the darshan of Bhagavan. One day she did not come. When she came the next day he asked her why she had not come the previous day. She replied, “I could not climb the hill because of my weakness. But I was fortunate enough to have you darshan from my house.” She explained how she saw Bhagavan when he was brushing his teeth sitting on the stone slab. She said that if he brushed his teeth in the same place everyday, she would be able to see him every day from her house itself as she found it difficult to climb the hill. From then on, Bhagavan brushed his teeth sitting on the stone, irrespective of weather conditions. It was a boon for other elderly people also.

Timeless in Time

At the time when the asram hall was being constructed, the attendants also used to carry stones to the site. One day an attendant Rangaswami’s finger was crushed when a stone fell on it. Till the finger was fully healed, Ramana himself took over the work of carrying stones.

Timeless in Time

In 1943, the Old Hall used to be overcrowded with visitors and devotees. The children who came with the women dirtied the place and there were no proper arrangements for cleaning. The attendants in a mood of disgust suggested that the women could sit outside the hall. Bhagavan queried, “If ladies are to sit outside, why not the men too? When there is no work in the hall even for Bhagavan, it will be alright if I sit under the tree which is opposite the hall. Then there will be no trouble or worry for anybody for whatever the children may do.” Consequently the attempt to separate the women was given up.

Timeless in Time

Sri N. Ramachandra Rao of Bangalore, who visited Sri Ramana in 1923, says in his Kannada book that he saw Sri Ramana living in a shed and that he garlanded the sage’s photo hung in the shed and that many devotees were living in the premises and getting up at 4:00 a.m. to attend the various items of work in the kitchen. It was in that shed that Sri Ramana was sleeping on 26-6-1924. Personal attendants were resting in adjacent sheds. During the night, six robbers easily broke open the bamboo door and entered the hut and attacked him without any difference and commanded his to deliver the keys to them. They slapped him on cheeks and said, “Give us your keys. Where have you kept money? If you do not give keys, we will break your legs.” Sri Ramana continued to be as serene as before. In his soft voice, he replied, “We are poor sadhus. We have no money. You can take away anything you want.” By then the attendants ran out from their sheds and entered his shed. They were also attacked by the robbers. Some asram dogs barked at the robbers, who punished the dogs too. His attendants wanted to teach a lesson to the robbers by counter-attack. Sri Ramana gave them a counsel of perfection. He persuaded them to be non-violent. He told them to treat the robbers as themselves. Subsequently, his attendants, on being questioned by others, recollected the very words uttered by Sri Ramana and thus helped future biographers of the sage to record them in their books. On that night, when his attendants were about the punish the robbers, he checked them by saying, “Look here, we are sadhus. We should not abandon our dharma. These robbers are also human beings like ourselves. But, they are under the sway of ignorance. Our own teeth sometimes bite our tongue. Do we therefore break our teeth? Do not attack the robbers.” This incident shows Sri Ramana’s imperturbable calmness. It also shows that he treated the robbers as his own self.

Life and Teachings of Sree Ramana Maharshi
T. S. Anantha Murthy
Electron Printers, Bangalore, 1972

 


 

Ramana’s Mother
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Alagammal, Ramana’s mother, moved to Tiruvannamalai in 1916 to be near her son. Like all devout persons she wanted to end the repeating cycle of birth and death. Who could be a better guide than her own son to whom the world was turning for an inward way of life? In the beginning she stayed with Echamma who would daily prepare food for Ramana and the inmates of Virupaksha Cave and take it to them. Mother would accompany her. Notwithstanding her resolve it was increasingly evident that the fatigue of climbing up to the cave was beyond her physical strength at her age. The lady devotees intervened on her behalf and pleaded that she should be permitted to stay with Ramana in the Virupaksha Cave itself. Not knowing Ramana’s views and apprehensive that other lady devotees too would follow suit, the inmates flatly refused to hear their pleadings. The lady devotees persisted saying that mother was mother, and therefore special. Yet the inmates remained stubborn. The mother was about to return in deep sorrow.

Ramana, who was silent until then, was moved. He got up, held her hand and said, “Come let us go, if not here we can stay somewhere else. Come.” Alarmed, everyone regretted their negative stand and begged him in one voice, “Please stay with us. Mother too is welcome.”

Ramana now had the opportunity to give the necessary guidance to his mother. Firstly, he had to wean her out of the kitchen-religion, out of her orthodoxy. He would make fun of it. For instance he would say, “Amma, what are you going to eat? Today they have brought drumsticks and onions. If you eat them, will you not encounter a forest of drumsticks and onions on the way to moksha?” Gradually she came to see that moderation in food was all that was required for sadhana.

Besides her ingrained orthodox habits there was an even more important hurdle. It was the understandable feeling of being special as Ramana’s mother. Ramana would frequently tell her that all women were his mothers. There was undoubtedly a corrosion of her background because of these lessons from Ramana. Yet the real reason for her transformation was the way Ramana lived before her day in and day out. How could mother’s mental notions remain unchanged? She too felt like a mother to all those who had entrusted their lives to Ramana. Her heart began to blossom. This change should be seen in an illustration. Once a man carrying firewood fell down in front of the asram exhausted with fatigue and hunger. She fed him unhesitatingly ignoring caste restrictions. She would also refer to the many inmates of the asram as her sons.

However, her love for Ramana would not be defeated. Slowly, at Skandasramam she started cooking, “First a vegetable, then a soup and so on. She used to wander all over the hill, gather something or the other and say that he likes this vegetable, that fruit.” She took no notice of Ramana’s remonstration. In fact this was the beginning of the asram kitchen and the Ramana family of an ever widening circle of disciples and devotees.

In the last years of her life, mother completely surrendered herself to Ramana who had become her Sadguru. Above all it was life in Ramana’s sanctifying presence, listening to his teachings and observing his daily life, which transformed her. Such was her faith in Ramana that she used to tell him, “Even if you throw away my dead body in these thorny bushes, I do not mind. I must die in your arms.”

 


 

Mother’s Liberation
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Mother’s health started deteriorating from 1920. On the 19th of May 1922, her condition became critical. After his morning walk Ramana want to her room at about 8 a.m., and sat beside her. Throughout the day, he had his right hand on her spiritual heart, on the right side of the chest and his left hand on her head. Ramana took on the sacred assignment of liberating his mother from the travails of births. He had the power to bestow liberation. But he let her battle for it while at the same time he extended his gracious and invaluable support for it to fructify. What happened has been described by Ramana himself. “The vasanas of the previous births and latent tendencies which are seeds of future births came out. She was observing one after another the scenes of experiences arising from remaining vasanas. As a result of a series of such experiences she was working them out.” Later someone asked Ramana to explain the process to which he replied, “You see, birth experiences are mental. Thinking is also like that, depending on samskaras (tendencies). Mother was made to undergo all her future births in the comparatively short time.” At 8 p.m., her mind was absorbed in the heart and she was liberated from all tendencies which give rise to future births. Even so Bhagavan waited for some time. For in the case of his faithful attendant of many years Palaniswami, he had done the same thing. But after the subsidence of the mind in the heart, Palaniswami had opened his eyes momentarily and the life force left the body though them. After a few minutes Ramana got up. When someone said that mother has passed away, Ramana immediately corrected and affirmed, “She did not pass away. ‘Adangi Vittadu, Addakam’ (‘absorbed’).” He added, “There is no pollution. Let us eat.”

Excerpted From Timeless in Time

 

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