Sonntag, 14. September 2008

13.3. Sadguru Ramana

The literal meaning of Guru is ‘one who drives away the darkness of ignorance’. In ‘Spiritual Instruction’ (Upadesa Manjari) Sri Ramana describes the characteristics of a Sadguru, i.e. a perfect Guru, as follows, “Steady abidance in the Self, looking at all with an equal eye, unshakable courage at all times, in all places and circumstances.” The earnest disciple, however, is marked by “an intense longing for the removal of sorrow and attainment of joy and an intense aversion for all kinds of mundane pleasure.”95

At the beginning of the traditional master/disciple relationship there is usually an initiation (diksha) through touch (laying on hands), mantra or look (darshan). Sri Ramana officially neither gave any of these forms of initiation, nor ever asserted that he was the Guru of this or that disciple. From his point of view there was neither master nor disciple. So he answered Paul Brunton, who wanted to obtain initiation from him by any means, “What is all this talk of masters and disciples? All these differences exist only from the disciple’s standpoint. To the one who has realized the true Self there is neither master nor disciple. Such a one regards all people with equal eye.”96

Likewise Major Chadwick once wanted visible confirmation that he was a disciple of Ramana. The Maharshi turned to another devotee and said humorously, “Ask him, does he want me to give him a written document? Go and call Narayanier, the Sub-Registrar, and tell him to make one out for him.” And later he added jokingly, “Go and get the office stamp and put it on him. Will that convince him?”

Nevertheless Sri Ramana was and is the Sadguru of many people. His look (darshan) was experienced very intensely. For that reason his devotees often experienced and interpreted his darshan as a kind of initiation and transmission of grace. Right up until his death Ramana’s eyes had an exceptional intense brilliance. It was not rare that he would look at someone for minutes on end or even longer. Louis Hartz reports, “Suddenly the Maharshi looked at me with great intensity. His eyes took possession of me. I don’t know how long it lasted, but I felt absolute great inner peace.” And Professor Subbaramayya recounts, “As our eyes met, there was a miraculous effect upon my mind. I felt as if I had plunged into a pool of peace.”

All his life Sri Ramana resisted being venerated as a Guru. The disciple shows his veneration, for example, by touching the feet of the master. However this was strictly forbidden at Ramanashram.

When Roda McIver felt a deep longing to touch Sri Ramana’s feet, he answered, “Why do you want to touch these feet? Bhagavan’s feet are over your head.” And to another devotee who expressed the desire, to lay his head on his feet, he put the question, “Which is the foot and which is the head?” The devotee knew not what to answer. After a while Maharshi said, “Where the self merges, that is the foot. It is in one’s own self. The feeling ‘I’ ‘I’, the ego, is the head. Where that ego dissolves, that is the foot of the Guru.”

Prostration (namaskaram) is also widely used as an expression of veneration for Guru and God. With hands folded above the head the devotee throws himself flat on the ground, face downwards. When devotees entered the Hall, they used to do namaskaram to Sri Ramana and occasionally they also overdid it. But the Maharshi repeatedly stressed that the real namaskaram is in the heart. When a man prostrated innumerable times to him, he said, “Where is the need for all these gymnastics? It is better to show your devotion by keeping quiet!”

Suri Nagamma reports an amusing incident, which again testifies to Sri Ramana’s good sense of humour, “As soon as Bhagavan returned to the Hall and sat on the couch, one of the devotees put some incense into the stove nearby. The fumes were a little too intense and as they spread around Bhagavan’s face, he felt almost suffocated. ‘Shall we open the windows?’ suggested a devotee. Bhagavan said, ‘Let it be. Leave it alone. In the temples, we burn the incense and fan the fumes towards the deity so that the idol is completely enveloped in the fumes. Your idea in burning the incense here also is to see that the Swami should enjoy the fumes. Moreover they are spreading out of their own accord. Why are you now trying to drive the fumes away?’ Just as Bhagavan was saying this, a devotee fanned the embers in the stove with his hand. Suddenly the whole thing burst into a flame. We were afraid that the heat of the flame might affect Bhagavan and began to feel anxious. But Bhagavan said with a smile, ‘Yes, now it is all right. The incense has been burnt and the lights have been waved, the process of puja is now complete.’”97

Whatever Maharshi touched or used was highly prized by his devotees, as they considered it to be prasad and that it passed on some of the power and blessing of the Guru to them. Devotees secretly liked to take the leaf plate from which he had eaten so that they could eat from it themselves, without him knowing about it. But when he found out, he immediately took precautions so that it could not happen again.

Likewise the water with which he washed his hands after meals was sought after. Not even his bath water was safe from devotees. It is again Suri Nagamma who reports the following fantastic incident, “In the room where Bhagavan takes his bath, there is a hole through which the water that is used drains out. Below that, a gutter was constructed to drain off the water. At the time of his bathing, some devotees used to gather at that place, sprinkle on their heads the water that came out of the room, wipe their eyes and even use it for achamaniyam (sipping drops of water for religious purpose). That was going on quietly and unobserved for some time. But in due course people began bringing vessels and buckets to gather that water and soon there was a regular queue. That naturally resulted in some noise which reached Bhagavan’s ears. He enquired and found out the facts. Addressing the attendants, he said, ‘… What nonsense! Will you get this stopped or shall I bathe at the tap outside? If that is done, you will be saved the trouble of heating water for me, and there will be no trouble for them either, to watch and wait for that tirtha [holy water]. What do I want? Only two things, a towel and a koupina. I can bathe and then rinse them at the tap and that completes the job. If not the tap, you have the hill streams and the tanks. Why this bother? What do you say?’”98 As a result, Chinnaswami immediately put an end to these practices.

From time immemorial the master/disciple relationship has been based on the disciple caring for the physical welfare of his master and performing various tasks for him. In return the Guru bestows his grace upon the disciple. Sri Ramana did not really subscribe to this view. In his opinion the devotee’s abidance in the true Self represented true service to the Guru.

Some devotees, who visited the Ashram regularly during their holidays, tended to become involved in various Ashram activities during their stay, which they interpreted as service to their Guru Ramana. If Maharshi noticed that, he would say, “In the name of service to the Guru, they should not waste their time in activities and become disappointed later.” And if someone complained that they could not find sufficient time for meditation he would say, “Is it that you have got no time for meditation? Or is it that you are unable to remain quiet? If you can remain quiet, go ahead and do so! You will then see how all the Ashram activities go on naturally of their own accord.”

Once a devotee from the West was clearing away the leaf plates in front of the dining hall, which was a completely useless occupation, as the used leaves were in any case meant to be thrown away. When Ramana saw him, he asked him why he was doing it. The devotee answered that he had not found any means to be of service since his arrival at the Ashram, so he wanted to do this work. But Ramana replied indignantly, “Is sweeping the used leaf plates the means to get salvation? Is it to perform this tapas that you have come here all the way from abroad. Go! Go! Enough of doing this kind of service! Go inside, sit to one side, turn your mind inward and find out he who wants to be saved. The service of purifying your heart is alone the highest service. That alone can truly redeem you.”99

Sri Ramana made no distinctions between his devotees. Whether they lived with him, came to visit now and then or even if they never saw him at all in the body, his grace flowed and continues to flow for all of them. He would say, “To me there is no distinction. Grace is flowing like the ocean ever full. Every one draws from it according to his capacity. How can one who brings only a tumbler complain that he is not able to take as much as another who has brought a jar?”100

But again and again his devotees would complain that, in their opinion, they were making no spiritual progress. Devaraja Mudaliar, who wrote the famous diary ‘Day by Day with Bhagavan’, did this particularly often. When one day he was again pestering Ramana about his inability to get rid of his worldly desires, he received the answer, “How do you know?” And at another time Ramana said to him, “Your business is simply to surrender and leave everything to me. If one really surrenders completely, there is no room for him to complain that the Guru has not done this or that.”

Some devotees thought that Sri Ramana could give them liberation (moksha). He explained to them that he had no bundles of libera-tion to offer, which he could hand out on demand, “I should give them moksha, they say. It is enough if moksha alone is given to them. Is not that itself a desire? If you give up all the desires that you have, what remains is only moksha.”

It is reported that Sri Ramana appeared to some devotees in the form of God or light. His mother once saw Ramana as Shiva, with a garland of snakes, then again she saw him in the form of light. Ganapati Muni and others had different visions of him too. When Roda McIver met Maharshi for the first time, he appeared to her as a splendid light. She reports, “Bhagavan had gone up the hill when I arrived, and I was told to wait on the footpath for His return. I did not see Him coming, but suddenly I saw a brilliant light before me, like the sun rising. I lifted my head and saw Bhagavan standing before me. He looked at me, nodded and smiled. At that moment I felt something happening in me which I had never ex-perienced before in my life! The Sun that He was, He revealed at that moment that He was the Light, the Fire of Knowledge!”101

When devotees told Sri Ramana about their visions, he would warn them not to attach too much importance to them.

It is also reported that people were healed in the presence of the Maharshi. As, for example, a little boy, whose name was also Ramana and who had been bitten by some kind of poisonous animal. When the parents brought the boy to the Maharshi he was already unconscious and had almost stopped breathing. Sri Ramana passed his hands over the boy’s body saying, “It is nothing. He will be all right.” And indeed, little Ramana soon recovered.

M.A. Piggot reports a similar occurrence. Someone had brought a man into the Hall who had been bitten by a snake and lay him down before Sri Ramana. “We all watched, fear gripping our hearts. Not so he, who sat looking into the far distance while the victim writhed in pain. Calm and compassion was in that look, and infinite peace. After what seemed like hours, the twitching ceased and the man appeared to sleep. Then the one who had brought in the sufferer gently touched him. The man rose, prostrated himself before the Maharshi and went out cured.”102Such spectacular incidents were, however, rare. Mostly Ramana kept silent if people tried to claim that he had healed someone.

95 Collected Works, p. 53
96 Brunton: A Search in Secret India, p. 277
97 Nagamma: Letters and Recollections, p. 113. The waving of the lights means the waving of the camphor lights (arati) as done at the puja in front of the statue of the Goddess.
98 Nagamma: Letters, p. 219
99 Godman: Presence, pp. 115ff
100 Subbaramayya: Reminiscences, p. 67
101 Ganesan: Moments, p. 38
102 Piggot: The Way of the Spirit. In: The Maharshi, July/August 1999, p. 4

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