Sonntag, 14. September 2008

13.1. Sri Ramana and His Devotees


Muruganar,“I was confident that even the mere Presence of this great Sadguru would do everything for me.”

The Tamil Poet Muruganar came to Sri Ramana in 1923. He was one of the devotees who was especially close to him. He was named ‘Bhagavan’s shadow’, as he was so dedicated to Ramana that he followed him everywhere. Even before he saw the Maharshi for the first time Muruganar knew that in him he had found his guru.

As he was a poet he presented his new master with a poem, in which he praised him as ‘Guru Ramana Shiva’. When Muruganar arrived, Ramana was just coming out of the Hall to start his walk on the hill. Muruganar stood rooted to the spot. Sri Ramana glanced at him and then asked him to read the poem he had brought. Muruganar tried to read, but was so moved that he started to cry and lost his voice. “Can’t you read it? Then I will read it myself”, said Maharshi and he read out the poem. As Muruganar reports, he lost his individual ego that very day and be-came ‘Bhagavan’s shadow’.

Once he said about Sri Ramana, “He is the robber chief. He has taken three – my body, my mind and life itself – and given in return one only, that One, Indivisible Supreme!”

From his first meeting with the Maharshi until his death in 1973 Muruganar wrote many thousands of verses in Tamil, which were exclusively devoted to the teaching of his master and his praise. He also had an important role to play in the origin of Sri Ramana’s works Ulladu Narpadu, Atma Vidya and Upadesa Saram.

It was in the thirties that the fame of Sri Ramana started to spread throughout the world. In 1931 Narasimha Swami published the first English Ramana biography ‘Self Realization’. Some years later Paul Brunton’s book ‘A Search in Secret India’ was published in England. It became a bestseller and introduced Sri Ramana to the West.

Sri Ramana with a visitor from the West

Over the next few years many new devotees came to join him. Some of them stayed with him their whole lives, for example the Englishman Major Chadwick (Sadhu Arunachala), Balarama Reddy and many others. In 1932, M.A. Piggot was the first Western woman to visit him. More Westerners followed, such as Maurice Frydman and the famous film star Mercedes De Acosta. In 1938 Mercedes De Acosta spoke with Sri Ramana about the spiritual Heart. He pointed to the right side of her chest and said, “Here lies the Heart”. This made such a deep impression on her that she gave her autobiography the title ‘Here lies the Heart’. Paramahansa Yogananda and Swami Ramdas were also among the visitors. A meeting with Mahatma Gandhi almost took place, when one day Gandhi gave a talk in Tiruvannamalai. But as his car drove past the Ashram gate, his companion gave a sign to the driver to drive on and so it did not happen. Later Krishnaswami visited Mahatma Gandhi in Madras. When he introduced himself as a resident of Ramanashram, the Mahatma replied, “I would love to come and see Bhagavan but I don’t know when the time will come.”

Somerset Maugham

Also worth mentioning is the brief visit of Somerset Maugham, the celebrated British writer, which took place in 1939. Major Chadwick was sitting with Maugham on the veranda when he suddenly fainted. He was brought to Chadwick’s room to rest. Later Sri Ramana came to see him there. They sat opposite each other for half an hour without a word being said. Then Somerset Maugham asked, “Is there any need to say anything?” “No,” replied Sri Ramana, “Silence is best. Silence is itself conversation.” About the meeting Somerset Maugham wrote the essay ‘The Saint’ and also digested his impressions in his famous novel ‘The Razor’s Edge’.

Sri Ramana took a special interest in newcomers. Devotees often wrote to the Ashram saying which train they would arrive on. The Tiruvannamalai station master reports, “Once, a devotee from Ceylon wrote that he was starting from Colombo on a particular day and would be reaching the Ashram. He forgot to mention the time of his arrival at Tiruvannamalai. So, Bhagavan asked me to find out from available Time Tables when the steamer started from Ceylon, when it reached Dhanushkoti and when he could be expected to reach Tiruvannamalai. Only after I found out the details and told the exact date and time, was He satisfied.”88

Sri Ramana with devotees on the Hill.
The lady behind him is Eleanor Noye, a visitor from the West.

It was the custom at the Ashram that newcomers were given the best places at meals, which were directly opposite the Maharshi. If the stay was prolonged this often turned into the exact opposite and at times Sri Ramana did not even deign to look at them. They were thus prevented from thinking that they had gained his special attention or any preferential treatment.

When devotees visited their master they brought presents with them, mostly in the form of fruits or sweets which would at once be distributed amongst those present. Sometimes disciples would also bring a special, expensive gift for the Maharshi’s personal use, but these were not normally welcomed.

Once someone wanted to give Sri Ramana a silver box which was meant for the nuts for the squirrels. The small sheet metal box used for this purpose looked old and ugly and so the devotee may have thought that this would be a useful gift. But Ramana did not even touch it and replied, “What, a silver box? No. Please take it back. Look at this; a silver box for me!”

When a devotee brought a nice walking stick with a silver handle for Sri Ramana he said jokingly, “Good. It is very nice. Please use it carefully.” The disciple replied, “But it is not for my use. I have brought it thinking that Bhagavan would use it.” “What an idea!”, said Ramana. “A nice walking stick with a silver handle should be used only by officials like you. Why for me? Look, I have my own walking stick. That is enough.”

At the beginning of the forties a devotee brought an electric table fan for Ramana. The answer was as usual, “Why this fan? The ordinary fan is there. We have hands. I will fan myself with it whenever necessary. Why do I require all these things?” But the devotee would not leave it at that and argued, “Is it not some trouble? If the electric fan is used there is no trouble whatsoever.” But Ramana replied, “What is the trouble? If the ordinary fan is used we get just as much breeze as we want. The electric fan blows too much breeze and with a whizzing noise. Moreover, some electric current is consumed. For that, there will be a bill. Why should we make the office bear that expense on our account?”89

The story of the fan was, however, far from over. The devotee simply left it there and it was placed near Ramana’s couch. If the weather was very sultry someone would switch it on for Ramana. But he would object, saying, “If you want a fan you can keep it near yourselves.” If no one turned it off he did it himself. He also did not want anyone to fan him with an ordinary fan if others could not also enjoy the benefits.

Sri Ramana repeatedly complained about the many things which were offered to him and which he did not actually need, “I am a poor man. For my status, even what I now have is too much. This sofa, these mattresses, these pillows – why all these? You people do not agree, but how happy would it be if I could spread out this towel and sit on the floor!” Mudaliar replied, “You say even that towel should be no bigger than the present one!” Ramana replied,” Why a bigger one? It is half-a-yard broad and three-quarters of a yard long. It is sufficient for drying the body after bath, for spreading over the head if you walk in the sun, for tying round the neck if it is cold and for spreading on the floor to sit on. What more could we do with a bigger one?”90

88 Ganesan: Moments, p. 85
89 Nagamma: Letters, pp. 433ff
90 dto.: p. 435

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