One day, while Ramana was sitting absorbed in meditation in the thousand-pillared hall, he was pelted with stones from behind, which, fortunately, did not hit him. As a result he nevertheless decided, in order to escape such troubles in future, to withdraw to a windowless underground vault under the thousand-pillared hall, known as the Patala Lingam (patala = snakes cave, underworld, a kind of hell). There was a Shiva lingam, behind which he sat down, leaning his back against the wall. The cellar was never used or vis-ited and therefore never cleaned. The rays of the sun never penetrated here. It was also damp and overrun with vermin such as woodlice, ants, bees and wasps. Despite being bitten by mosquitoes Ramana sat unmoved in yoga posture with legs crossed, impervious to the world. His thighs, where they met the ground, were soon covered with ulcers, from which blood and pus oozed. The scars were to remain visible for the rest of his life.
Here the children left him in peace. He reported, “Children used to run after me, and when I hid myself in Patala Lingam, from the outside they would pelt me with stones and potsherds, but none of it reached me as I used to sit in the south east corner. The urchins never dared to come in because of the extreme darkness that prevailed in the pit, the broken steps of which could not even be seen from the surface.”15
A pious woman named Ratnammal found him there, she spoke to him and brought him something to eat. She urgently begged him to leave the place and come to stay at her home. But the young Swami made no reply, either through words or gestures. She laid a clean piece of cloth beside him and bade him to use it as a bed or to sit on to keep at least some of the vermin away, but he took no notice and did not even touch it. He also made no effort to obtain any food. People therefore used to place food in his mouth, but he was not aware of it. When later he was asked if he had any food during the time of his stay in the vault, he answered, “Food was forthcoming – milk, fruits – but whoever thought of food?”
Sri Ramana neither spoke nor moved. People who saw him like this thought he was practising an intense kind of spiritual exercise (tapas). Because he was silent, people were of the opinion that he had taken a vow of silence (mauna). But for him all this was no spiritual exercise at all, it was merely something that happened to him, “I have never done any sadhana. I did not even know what sadhana was. Only long afterwards I came to know what sadhana was and how many different kinds of it there were. Only if there was a goal to attain, I should have made sadhana to attain that goal. There was nothing which I wanted to obtain. I am now sitting with my eyes open. I was then sitting with my eyes closed. That was all the difference. I was not doing any sadhana even then. As I sat with my eyes closed, people said I was in samadhi. As I was not talking, they said I was in mauna. The fact is, I did nothing. Some Higher Power took hold of me and I was entirely in Its hand.”16
There is little or no information about how long Ramana stayed in samadhi in the Patala Lingam. It was probably several weeks. One Venkatachala Mudali, a visitor to the temple, finally brought him out of there, after Seshadri had drawn his attention to the alarming bodily condition of the young Swami. Venkatachala Mudali reports, “One day, going near the thousand-pillared hall, I found a group of boys, mostly Moslems, hurling stones in the direction of the pit. Enraged at the sight I seized a twig, and ran towards the young scamps who fled promptly. Suddenly from the dark recesses of the hall there issued forth the figure of Seshadri. I was taken aback, but, soon recovering myself, enquired of the Swami if the stones pelted by the boys had hurt him. ‘Oh no,’ replied the Swami, ‘but go and see the Chinnaswami there’, pointed towards the pit, and went away. Proceeding inside, I could make out nothing for a while, as I was coming from the glare into the darkness. In a few minutes, the faint outlines of a young face became discernible in that pit. Somewhat frightened, I went out to the adjoining flower-garden where a sadhu was working with his disciples. Mentioning the facts to them I took some of them with me. Even then the youthful figure sat motionless and with closed eyes, despite the noise of our footsteps. Then we lifted the Swami from the pit, carried him from the hall up a flight of steps and deposited him in front of a shrine of Subrahmanya. The Swami still remained unconscious, his eyes closed; evidently he was in deep samadhi. We noted the large number of sores on the nether side of his thighs and legs, with blood and pus flowing from some of them, and wondered how any one could remain unconscious of the body amidst such torture. Regarding it as irreverence, nay impertinence, to make any further noise in such presence, we bowed and came away.”17
15 Bhagavan Sri Ramana, p. 29
16 Mudaliar: Day by Day, p. 274 17 Narasimha Swami: Self Realization, p. 48
17 Narasimha Swami: Self Realization, p. 48