Sonntag, 14. September 2008

12. 1. Daily Life at the Ashram

Let activities go on. They do not affect the pure Self. The difficulty is that people think they are the doer. This is a mistake. It is the higher power which does everything and people are only tools. If they accept that position they will be free from troubles, otherwise they court them.

Life at the Ashram was extremely well-ordered. Tidiness, cleanliness, thrift and punctuality were expected from everyone. Arthur Osborne remarked, “Bhagavan Sri Ramana was meticulously exact, closely observant, practical and humorous. 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 Ashram Hall was swept out several times daily. The books were always in their places. The cloths covering the couch were scrupulously clean and beautifully folded. The loincloth, which was all he wore, was gleaming white. The two clocks in the Hall were adjusted daily to radio time. The calendar was never allowed to fall behind the date. The routine of life flowed to a regular pattern.”71

In the later years, when Ramana had ceased working in the kitchen and had started to supervise the building projects, his timetable was as follows - he would rise at approximately 3.30 a.m., at half past five he took his bath and at half past six breakfast was served. This was followed by the first walk on the hill. At 8.30 he read the incoming mail and at 9.45 he made a short visit to the cowshed. Lunch was served at 11.30. Around midday he went for a second walk, which this time lasted an hour and took him to Palakothu. At 2.30 p.m. there was coffee and at approximately 4 p.m. he read the outgoing mail. Half an hour later he again went for a walk for an hour. After this the Veda parayana was chanted, followed by the Tamil parayana. At half past seven the bell called everyone to dinner. Afterwards Ramana went to the cowshed again and at 8.45 p.m. all devotees retired to their lodgings.

It is reported that Sri Ramana slept very little at night. He also never lay down flat, but remained upright, leaning against the back of the couch. After lunch everyone in the Ashram liked to withdraw to take a nap – not so Ramana. He often made use of this quiet hour to feed the animals or make a round through the Ashram and inform himself of the progress of the building projects.

Ramana supervising the building projects

In spite of the increasing numbers of visitors Sri Ramana led an active life. In addition to cooking and supervising the building projects, he read the proofs of the books which were to be published. By now his works had been translated and printed in a number of Indian dialects. He had written his famous hymns to Arunachala around 1914. From 1923 to 1929 he wrote Upadesa Saram (The Essence of Instruction in 30 Verses), Upadesa Manjari (Spiritual Instruction) and Ulladu Narpadu (Reality in Forty Verses) with supplementary verses. This was followed in the thirties and forties by various translations into Tamil, Malayam and Telugu of important advaita scriptures, such as certain parts of Vivekachudamani and other scriptures by Shankara, some verses of the Bhagavad Gita and parts of the Agamas. The English translations of all these works can be found in The Collected Works of Ramana Maharshiï. So Ramana regularly spent a lot of time proof-reading these publications. He also read everything that was written about him and was very particular that everything should be accurate. When a biography was to be published about him in Telugu, entitled Ramana Leela, he painstakingly went through it correcting any mistakes.

He was equally conscientious in the way he dealt with the incoming and outgoing mail. He read all the incoming letters and although he never answered letters himself, (others did this for him), he carefully read through the outgoing mail and made corrections if need be, or gave instructions as to how the answer should be phrased.

He also did bookbinding work. Now and then people would bring him old books in poor condition. He checked whether they were complete, added any missing pages by copying them out himself and inserting them, and then repaired the books.

Just as he never wasted any food, so he also never wasted any paper. He would collect any paper which was still usable, often cutting it up into small sheets, which he would then bind together to make notebooks. Even the pins from the newspapers would be kept. 'They will otherwise be merely thrown away. We shall use them. How should we get new ones? They have to be bought. Where is the money?', he would say.

Ramana walking on the Hill

The regular walks were also a fixed part of the daily routine, though they became shorter as the numbers of visitors increased and the various building projects were commenced. In the later years especially, he was not able to put a foot outside the door without being accompanied by a small crowd of people. Solitary walks on the hill had become impossible, although at times he managed to slip away without letting anyone know; but as soon as people noticed, they all wanted to come with him, as happened one day when he wanted to go up to Skandashram alone. The result was a kind of mass migration. When he was asked by his devotees to climb to the top of the hill with them, as he knew the way best, he replied jokingly, 'If I come, everyone in the Ashram will join me. Even the buildings will come with us!'

In the later years the restrictions became so great that he could no longer move around freely. Everything was governed by a timetable. A barrier was erected to prevent people touching him. He called this enclosure his ‘cage’. “They have put bars around me, though wooden, as in the gaol. I may not cross these bars. There are people specially deputed to watch me and they keep watch on me by turns. I can’t move about as I like; they are there to prevent it. One person goes and another comes according to turns. What is the difference between these people and the police except that the former are not in uniform? ... Even if I want to go out to answer calls of nature, they must follow me to protect me. Even my going out must be according to the scheduled time.”72

In the early years Sri Ramana attempted on a couple of occasions to leave the Ashram for a life of solitude. Vasudeva (the same who once witnessed Ramana’s second death experience at Tortoise rock) relates, “Once Bhagavan and I went round the hill during the Skandashram days. When we reached near Esanya math about 8.30 a.m., Bhagavan sat on a rock and said with tears in his eyes he would never again come to the Ashram and would go where he pleased and live in the forests or caves away from all men. I would not leave him and he would not come. It became very late. We went there about 8 or 8.30 a.m. and even when it became 1 p.m. we were still in this deadlock. Bhagavan asked me to go into the town and eat my food and then come back if I wanted. But I was afraid that if I went Bhagavan would go away somewhere.”73
Finally the Swami of Esanya math passed and invited Ramana to the math. With that the escape attempt was failed and he had no other choice than to return to Skandashram with Vasudeva.

Sri Ramana also reports about two other escape attempts, “Another time too I wanted to run away from all this crowd and live somewhere unknown, freely as I liked. That was when I was in Virupaksha Cave. … But on that occasion my plans were frustrated by Yogananda Swami. I tried to be free on a third occasion also. That was after mother’s passing away. I did not want to have even an Ashram like Skandashram and the people that were coming there then. But the result has been this Ashram [Ramanashram] and all the crowd here. Thus all my three attempts failed.”74

When someone remarked that Sri Ramana could leave the Ashram when he liked, he replied, “What can I do? If I go off to the forest and try to hide, what will happen? They will soon find me out. Then someone will put up a hut in front of me and another person at the back, and it will not be long before huts will have sprung up on either side. Where can I go? I shall always be a prisoner.”75

Veda patasala today

Another fixed part of the daily schedule was the chanting of the Veda parayana. At first, Brahmin boys used to come from town to do the chanting. Later, with the assistance of Major Chadwick, the Ashram opened its own Veda school (patasala), which is still in existence today.

The chanting of the Vedas in the morning and evening lasted around 40 minutes. Texts from the Vedas were recited, as well as other Sanskrit texts, such as for example the Forty Verses in Praise of Ramana by Ganapati Muni and Sri Ramana’s Arunachala Pancharatna and Upadesa Saram. This was then followed by the so-called Tamil Parayana with other works by Sri Ramana.

Strictly speaking only Brahmins are allowed to be present at the Veda Parayana, but Sri Ramana wanted everyone to participate, so Brahmins sat next to non-Brahmins and Indians next to Westerners.

The Maharshi attached great importance to this chanting, stressing its calming effect upon the mind. If he was asked if people should not also understand the texts, he would say that it was not necessary, it was sufficient to use them as an aid to meditation. He himself would sit upright on his couch during the chanting, his eyes taking on a faraway look.

71 Osborne: Ramana-Arunachala, p. 17
72 Nagamma: Letters, p. 366
73 Mudaliar: Day by Day, pp. 275ff
74 dto., p. 276
75 Sadhu Arunachala: Reminiscences, p. 93

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