WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8178

Date uploaded in London – – – 15 June 2020   

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R. Nanjappa

We may now deal with some other publications containing  the instructions of Bhagavan.

1. Talks. 

This is a record of questions asked of Bhagavan by visitors and Bhagavan’s replies, maintained by a devotee in the early 30s. Bhagavan invariably replied in Tamil, no matter in which language the question was put, and his replies were translated into English. This is what is recorded here. They contain Bhagavan’s answers, based on the questioner’s own belief system and state of mind or religious inclination, and  not his spontaneous instructions. Bhagavan never forced anyone to adopt his way. However, he is always turning the questioner towards self-enquiry, showing how it is the culmination of all paths.

There is a strange development here. Bhagavan spoke and answered in Tamil, these were translated into English and conveyed to the questioner and recorded as Talks. These talks were later translated into Tamil. But here we got lucky, as the person  who translated it, Visvanatha Swami, was himself present in the Hall during these talks on most days and he knew Bhagavan’s language well! So, this is no ordinary, academic translation.  

2. Letters From Sri Ramanasramam.
These letters were originally written in Telugu by a lady devotee (by name Suri Nagamma) to her brother in the late 40s.  She resided near the Asramam and spent the time in Bhagavan’s presence, observing the things that happened there, and noting down any interesting developments. They reveal many interesting aspects of life in the Asramam and occasional teachings/observations made by Bhagavan. Later on, they were translated into English and published. Being the writings of a simple devotee with no literary pretensions, they have a directness and heart-warming quality, often revealing the human side of Bhagavan.

3. Day by Day With Bhagavan.
This contains entries from the diary of a devotee, maintained in the late 40s. The author, Sri Devaraja Mudaliar was an admirer of The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna. It too records in general things that happened in the presence of Bhagavan, not his instructions exclusively. But they are valuable to know the mind and method of Sri Bhgavan.


Muruganar is a phenomenon. He was an accomplished poet, but on coming to Bhagavan, he gave up all his poetic ambitions. However Bhagavan’s grace induced him to use his poetic genius to write about Bhagavan, turning him into a divine bard of Bhagavan. He wrote about Bhagavan alone.

1. Ramana Sannidhi Murai.

This work contains 1850 verses sung in the classical Tamil style, patterned after the famed work of the Saivite Saint Manickavachaka and Tevaram hymns. They are in praise of Bhagavan Ramana, meant to be sung in set tunes. They celebrate the advent of Ramana and his divine excellence. They celebrate the Power of His Presence. The teachings of Bhagavan are also indicated.

One incident brings out its importance. These poems attracted very high praise and appreciation , at the time of first publication in 1933, from leading Tamil scholars of the day, who composed verses in its praise. One young Asramam inmate (Visvanatha Swami) also wanted to compose a verse in praise, but could not proceed beyond the first two words. He kept the pencil and paper aside and went away. Later, Bhagavan found the paper, took it up, and completed the verse, but recorded the name of the devotee as the author. Its gist is: Arunachala Ramana, who resides ever in the lotus of the heart, turned his look of Grace on Murugan from Mugavaapuri ( ie Muruganar) and his ego was completely annihilated. In that state of exceeding Grace, Muruganar composed these verses, for the benefit of the world, equalling  Tiruvachakam ( of Manickavachaka).

அகத்தாமரை மலர் மீதுறை அருணாசல ரமணன்

நகைத்தான் உற விழித்தான் அறச்செகுத்தானெனதுயிரை

மிகத்தான் அருள் சுரந்தானென முகவாபுரி முருகன்

செகத்தாருய வகுத்தான் முறை திருவாசக  நிகரே.

Parts of this work have been rendered in English by Prof.K.Swaminathan under the title “Homage to the Presence”..

2. Guru Vachaka Kovai; Garland of Guru’s Sayings.

This is a very unique composition of 1254 verses by Muruganar and another 28 by Bhagavan, containing the direct instructions of Bhagavan.

Though Bhagavan had no interest in expounding philosophy, visitors often came who were acquainted with Hindu and other systems of philosophy and raised doubts in the light of their own studies and difficulties. Where the questioner was also an earnest seeker, Bhagavan would clarify, often referring to the sources familiar to them. He invariably answered in Tamil.While nearly every one noted them in English, Muruganar noted down the very words of Bhagavan in Tamil. He would compose verses using those words and submit them to Bhagavan for his perusal. Bhagavan would change or correct them as needed, or himself compose a verse, indicating the correct sense. Thus Guru Vachaka Kovai emerges as the most authentic record of the teachings of Bhagavan available to us.In matters of doubt on any point not covered by the verses of Bhagavan himself, Guru Vachaka Kovai is the authority for us.This too was affirmed by Bhagavan himself in a unique manner.

Sadhu Natanananda had recorded an introduction in Tamil to the first edition of this book in 1939, concluding with these words:

In summary,it can be said that this  is a work that has come into existence to explain in great detail and in a pristine form Sri Ramana’s philosophy and its essential nature.

In the Tamil original, the word for ‘this’ is ‘idu’. (இது) Here Bhagavan made just one insertion: to the word ‘idu’,  he added just one letter: ‘ve’ or ‘ay’  வே so that idu becomes ‘iduve’, இதுவே which translated into English would mean ‘only this’ or ‘this alone’.

We can now understand the importance of this work! Luckily, a beautiful English translation by Dr.Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman is now available!

3.Ramana Jnana Bodham.

This is a monumental work of more than 10,000 verses discovered after Sri Muruganar’s passing in 1973. Muruganar wrote on any piece of paper available, including on the reverse of bus tickets left by visitors. on the back of notices displayed, etc. And he just kept them. Because of his self-effacing nature, he would not mention this to any one. It must also be said that at one stage, he was out of favour with the Asramam management, who did not even bring out his Ramana Sannidhi Murai. Ramana Jnana Bodham  was compiled from the thousands of verses,grouped and organised by Sadhu Om, another devotee with a poetic bent, and published in nine volumes due to the efforts of Prof.K.Swaminathan, outside the Asramam. 

All these verses deal with one subject: the bliss of experiencing Ramana’s grace! Their majesty, power, beauty are beyond description. Their classical Tamil form and diction make it difficult even for those with Tamil as mother tongue to read them. Some earnest devotees have attempted to translate some verses into English. Those that contain the teachings are translated separately under the head ‘Padamalai’ by Dr.T.V.Venkatasubramanian, Robert Butler and David Godman. This is a wonderful treasure.

Ramana Jnana Bodham is unique, as so may thousands of verses deal with just one subject!

Growing Literature: Be Guarded

Over the years, huge literature has grown on the teachings of Bhagavan. At one stage, some thought that the words of Rishis are in Sanskrit and Bhagavan’s works should also be in Sanskrit. Efforts were made to render some teachings in Sanskrit, people wrote commentary on it, translated it and it went on like that. Then people wrote commentary on some works, commentary on commentary , etc. This goes on endlessly. The earnest seeker has to remember some basic facts:

1. Bhagavan’s stress is on actual practice-sadhana., not on theory or philosophy.
2. The only method advocated by Bhagavan is Self-enquiry or Self-attention ( “Buddhi idayatte porundi aha nokkal”  புத்தி இதயத்தே பொருந்தி அக நோக்கால் as stated by him in his verse on Deepa Darsana Tatvam), or Surrender.
3. For those in need of supplementary explanations, Bhagavan’s own works are sufficient.
4. Those who want to follow Bhagavan’s path must accept him as the Guru, and he must also  accept them!
5. On the basis of 40 years of reading Ramana literature, I have found the following to be sources of great  practical  help ( other than Bhagavan’s own words):
i. Muruganar’s works. 
ii. Sadhu Om’s writings in Tamil, some translated by Michael James into  English.

iii. Arthur Osborne’s books, the following:

  • Ramana Maharshi And the Path of Self Knowledge
  • Teachings of Bhagavan  Sri Ramana Maharshi in His Own Words
  • The Collected  Works of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi (original edition)
  • Ramana Arunachala. A slim volume, this is pure gem, full of practical hints for sadhana. How Ramana guides sadhaks is sensitively revealed here.
  • For Those With Little Dust
  • Be Still, It is The Wind That Sings.

The last two contain his writings in the quarterly Journal “Mountain Path” which he founded and edited till his death. These enable us to appreciate Bhagavan’s teachings in the light of historical trends and other spiritual traditions, and also serve as the standard to evaluate all spiritual lore in the light of Bhagavan’s life and teachings. 

Sri Arthur Osborne was a Realised person, and his translations are simple, direct and effective.

Lucia and Arthur Osborne  

iv. Writings of Lakshmana Sarma (WHO). Sarma did not know classical Tamil and found it difficult to understand the Forty Verses. He told Bhagavan so. Bhagavan himself explained to Sarma this work! Muruganar was the only other person who had the benefit of thus getting Bhagavan’s own explanation on his work!

Lakshmana Sarma was a Sanskrit scholar and he found the translations of Bhagavan’s works done by others unsatisfactory as they did not represent Bhagavan’s views accurately. So he complained to Bhagavan. Bhagavan simply told him why he could not write his own version if he was not satisfied with the others! Sarma set to work, and submitted his works to Bhagavan for approval. They have been published as corrected and approved by Bhagavn. 

Bhagavan lived for 54 years at Arunachala. He was not an ascetic. He did not have a moment of privacy. He was always surrounded by devotees. He interacted with them normally. We get some flavour of those days from the reminiscences of the old devotees who lived in or near the Asramam those days. The reminiscences of Sadhu Arunachala (Major Chadwick), S.S. Cohen, Devaraja Mudaliar, G.V.Subbaramayya. N.Balarama Reddiar, T.K.Sundaresa Iyer, Kunju Swamy. T.R.Kanakammal, Suri Nagamma are valuable to understand the spirit of those days, in the presence of  Bhagavan.

 நமோ ரமணாய நலம் பெற வாழ்க

விமோசன மெய்யன் விரைமலர்த் தாள் வாழ்க.

Long live the mantra “Namo Ramanaya”

for the benefit of all living beings.

Long live the fragrant lotus feet of the True One

who releases from our ignorance.

[Translation by Robert Butler, T.V.Venkatasubramanian and David Godman}




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