RAMANA- BOUND BY DEVOTEES-1 (Post No.8361)

WRITTEN BY R. NANJAPPA                        

Post No. 8361

Date uploaded in London – – – 18 July 2020   

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

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                                                  R. Nanjappa

The Lord and Devotees

The Sastras speak of Bhagavan  as being bound to the devotee. It is said that Bhagavan loses his freedom in front of the bhakta. The bhakta ‘enjoys’ Bhagavan and experiences his bliss in unique ways. And he takes liberties and enjoys privileges others cannot even dream of. Bhagavan drove the chariot for Arjuna, and even cleaned the horses. Nay more: he even removed the leaf-plates at the feast at Rajasuya Yajna! Sundaramurti Nayanar made the Lord walk to his lady love with a message. He commanded the Lord to restore a child swallowed by a crocodile. There are so many other things the Lord did for his devotees, as we learn from the Mahabhakta Vijayam. Are these just stories?

Bhagavan himself declares that he is bound by the devotee.

Aham bhakta paradheeno
hyaswatantra iva”
I am a slave of my devotees. I have no freedom at all.
(Srimad Bhagavatam, 9.4.63)

“Sadhavo hrudayam mahyam”
Devotees constitute my heart         (9.4.68)

Manckavachaka says: “Lo, the Lord is caught in the net of devotion” ( Bhakti valaiyil paduvon kaanga- பக்தி வலையில் படுவோன் காண்க )
After showing  by  His grace His Visvaroopa to Arjuna, Bhagavan declares:

Naaham Vedairna tapasaa
Na daanaena na chejyayaaஅ
Shakya evamvidho drashtum

Drushtavanasi  maam yatha                 11.53

Neither by Vedas,nor by austerity, nor by gifts, nor by sacrifice can I be seen as you have seen Me.

Bhaktyaa tvananyayaa shakya
Aham evam vidho arjuna
Jnaatum drashtum cha tatvaena
Pravaeshtum cha parantapa.                 11.54

But O Arjuna, scorcher of foes,  by single-minded devotion I may, in this form, be known, seen in reality, and also entered into.

Sri Sukhadeva tells king  Parikshit:

Evam swabhaktyo rajan
Bhagavan bhaktabhaktimaan.

(Srimad Bhagavatam 10.86.59)

O King! Bhagavan is devoted to the devotee, just as the devotee is devoted to Bhagavan!

(Bhagavan approaches the devotee, just as the devotee approaches Bhagavan. The more intense the one, the more the other! In this sense we may say Bhagavan serves the devotee who serves Bhagavan! As Swami Ramsukha Das used to point out, Bhagavan is the only Master who serves his servants!)

So, Bhagavan is bound by the devotee. One may be tempted to say, ‘oh, this is all bunkum. Anything may be written in the puranas. Is all this real?’. One is surely justified in such doubt. After all, this is what Valmiki asked Narada: “Tell me whether there is such a perfect man Now “: 

ka: nu asmin saampratam  loke

Valmiki Ramayana, Balakandam, 1.2

If this was the position in Tretayuga, no objection can be raised in this Kali! 

Valmiki composing the Ramayana

Hindu religion is very fortunate, and bold. It does not ask you to take anything on faith. Test it and take it. And the beauty is that its truths are not only testable, but can be experienced now ie they are repeatable. In this sense they are scientific: subject to observation, and verifiable by experiment. Like in science, fulfill the conditions and experience the results. 

How do Sages live – day by day?

In the recent past, we have had two Sages whose life exemplifies the truth of the sastras. One is Sri Ramakrishna and the other is Sri Ramana Maharshi. They were surrounded by devotees and observers all the time- they had no privacy at all. Almost every aspect of their life is noted by someone. We have a detailed chronicle of the life of Sri Ramakrishna through the pen of Mahendranath Gupta. This covers the last 54 months of the life of the Sage ( February-March 1882 to August 1886). Sri Ramana lived in Tiruvannamalai for 54 years – 1896 to 1950 and all the time under full public gaze! So it offers great scope to study how a Sage actually lived from day to day. Arjuna asked Krishna:

Stitaprajnasya kaa bhashaa
Samadhisthasya Keshava
Stitadhi: kim prabhashatae

Kim aaseeta vrajaeta kim?                  2.54

O Keshava!
What is the description of the man of steady wisdom, merged in Samadhi?
How does the man of steady wisdom speak, how does he sit, how does he walk?

Bhagavan answered Arjuna in 18 slokas. But we have three times that number of years to observe the life of Bhagavan Ramana!

Ramana, ‘rescued’ by devotees!

Gurumurtam in the olden days!

Ramana was already a Realised Sage when he left home. He had nothing further to seek or attain! He  was in a state of continuous absorption in the Self from the time he landed in Tiruvannamalai on 1 September,1896. He had no body consciousness at all! He just sat absorbed in Samadhi,without awareness of the external world. In fact, he was in the Self- he was the Self! There was no other, nothing else!

It is very important to note this. Seeing that he was always immersed in Samadhi, but unable to understand that state, some people say that he was doing ‘penance’ or tapas- some sadhana! Ramana himself has said that after his ‘death experience’ in Madurai, his state remained unchanged throughout. He did not undertake any sadhana or perform any tapas. He sat absorbed in samadhi. About his stay in Gurumurtam in 1896, he himself said later, when questioned by a devotee:

Days and nights would pass without my being aware..I entertained no idea of bathing…or other cleaning activities even when I defecated….The face got begrimed, the hair had become one clotted mass like wax and the nails grew long. When anyone thought that I should have food, I would stretch a hand and something would drop on my hand. My hands were not useful for any other purpose…. i would eat and rub my hand on my head or body…For many years I ate only off my hand.

Such are the wonders of spiritual life that even then there were pious people, not ‘educated’ but ‘learned in the lore’ to understand that this was no ordinary lad.The first of such devotees was a sturdy person from a nearby village who eked out a living by driving bullock cart! But he knew a lot of Tamil religious lore by heart! He took it upon himself to feed him and protect him! It seems that he had felt the boy was a very holy person and serving him would be beneficial! Ramana did not talk but it did not matter. Ramana first sat in various spots in the Big temple, including the underground cellar. But crowds and urchins chased him.He then moved out to the Eastern slopes of the Hill, sitting in the small shrines there. But his ‘keerthi’ was spreading and crowds started visiting him in everlarger numbers. Some self-appointed guardian turned gatekeeper and even started collecting a toll! 

Through all this his intense Samadhi state continued and some one or the other was there to take care of him. But for them, Ramana might not have lasted long or returned to the external world! Sri Ramakrishna used to say that the body would not last for more than 21 days after Realisation! It seems Ramana’s real sadhana was to return to the consciousness of the external world! We owe it to the initial devotees that they cared for Ramana’s body in those days! Thereafter, Ramana only lived for the devotees!

Ramana and devotees: three stages.


1.Virupaksha Cave.

Bhagavan shifted to a small,natural cave on the Eastern slope, called Virupaksha in 1899, and stayed here for 17 years, with temporary shiftings in summer. This is a very important period for devotees.

xxxx 

Bhagavan Ramana in front of the Virupaksha cave

  • It is here that devotees Gambhiram Seshaiyer questioned Bhagavan and obtained his written instructions for the first time.
  • It is here that Sivapraksam Pillai came and extracted from Bhagavan his unique teaching: enquiry into ‘Who Am I’.

Sivaprakasam Pillai. He settled in his village and led a quiet life of devotion. On hearing the news of his passing, Sri Bhagavan said: Sivaprakasam has become Siva’s effulgence! (Sivaprakasam Sivaprakasam aanaar)

சிவப்ரகாசம் சிவப்ரகாசமானார்!

  • It is here that Bhagavan first gave verbal instructions to Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri in 1907, breaking his silence. It was Sastri who called him “Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi”; till then he was simply known as ‘the Brahmana swami’.
  • It was here that Bhagavan composed his Five Hymns to Arunachala.
  • It was here that one Satyamangalam Venkatarama Iyer came and wrote the Ramana Stuti Panchakam. (This person has remained mysterious and eluded all efforts at tracing)
  • It was here that Bhagavan’s mother came, to be with him.
  • It was during his stay here that Bhagavan noticed the mysterious Big banyan tree on the Northern slope of the Hill and was frustrated in his efforts to reach the spot, by hornets!
  • It was here that Bhagavan had a second death experience, more intense than the first, when even his heart-beat and blood circulation had stopped, and the body had started turning blue! A devotee, Vasudeva Sastri was with him then, and he even started weeping loudly, embracing the body of Bhagavan! But Bhagavan said that through all this the current of his awareness continued without a break!
  • It was here that Bhagavan became acquainted with our traditional religious lore. Till then, Ramana had read nothing of our religion except Periya Puranam, and the Bible.(in school). There was an attendant, Palaniswamy, then who used to bring religious books from a local library and read aloud. Thus Bhagavan got to know what was written in them, and noted that they conformed to what he had experienced!
  •  

Avatars and old teachings.

This is an important point to remember. In trying to ‘explain’ or expound  Bhagavan’s teachings, or ‘philosophy’, people cite old authorities and say how Bhagavan’s teachings are in accord with them. This is complete bunkum. Ramana’s teaching stands on its own, does not need confirmation of any other authority. His teaching is unique and not a repetition of any old authority-even Shankara, some of whose works he has translated.

This is a mistake our writers make even in regard to the Gita. Krishna clearly says that there were two ‘Old’ ways in the past, which He had himself given:

Lokaesmin dwividhaa nishta 

Puraa proktaa mayaanaga                  Gita,3.3

An Avatar will not come merely to repeat what was said earlier! That is the job of pandits, acharyas! Avatar comes to raise our consciousness, he brings new perspectives, new teachings, new authority!  What Bhagavan teaches in the Gita is new: ananya bhakti, complete surrender , “Sarva dharmaan parityajya Maam Ekam Sharanam Vraja”.Bhagavan explains the role and importance of the Avatara, and says the Avatara is Bhagavan, Purushottama and Brahman! The Gita supersedes all older scriptures, while not dispensing with their relevant teaching or discipline.  But it gives its own new significance: tapas, yajna, tyaga, sanyasa, jnana, bhakti, yoga- every word or concept is redefined and expanded ! The Gita cannot be explained in terms of the old- just as subatomic physics cannot be explained in terms of Newton!

In the same way, Bhagavan Ramana’s teaching cannot be explained in terms of old. Two writers have done splendid work here: K.Lakshmana Sarma (WHO) has explained the traditional teaching in terms of Ramana! (Maha Yoga) Sri Sadhu Om has explained Ramana’s teachings entirely on the basis of Ramana’s own teachings!

We see here how devotees were instrumental in drawing Bhagavan Ramana out of his immersion in samadhi. Bhagavan could have continued, without responding to their queries; that he decided to answer them, in writing , shows that there must have been something in the devotees to which he could not be indifferent!  This is the mysterious divine dispensation-that a worthy disciple woud get the proper Guru! Thus did the devotees bind Ramana! It was also a devotee-Satyamangalam Venkatarama Iyer- who first sang hymns of praise on Bhagavan! There is an element of mystery surrounding him!

                           ***                       to be continued

tags – RAMANA, DEVOTEES-1

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