As I Saw Him: By Sadhu Arunachala

The most authentic sources for Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching are Bhagavan’s own words and also the recollections of Bhagavan devotees. How Bhagavan spoke and acted in the world also is noteworthy as the purest teachings of the Self emanated from his very being.  I will be sharing some of my favorite stories of Bhagavan as told by the devotees.


AS I SAW HIM – Part 1

by Sadhu Arunachala

TO TRY TO DESCRIBE my reactions when I first came into the presence of Bhagavan is difficult. I felt the tremendous peace of his presence, his graciousness. It was not as though I was meeting him for the first time. It seemed that I had always known him. It was not even like the renewal of an old acquaintanceship. It had always been there though I had not been conscious of it at the time. Now I knew.

It was only afterwards, when I had dwelt in India for some time, that I began to realise how gracious Bhagavan had been to me from the very first. and this attitude of mine was to my advantage. Bhagavan responded to people’s reactions. If you behaved absolutely naturally, with no strain, Bhagavan’s behaviour was similar.

Bhagavan Ramana Reclining
Bhagavan Ramana Reclining

When I entered the Hall for the first time, Bhagavan was seated on his couch, facing the door. It was about seven o’clock and he had just returned from his stroll on the Hill. Bhagavan adored the Hill and was never happier than when wandering about its slopes. He greeted me with his lovely smile and asked if I had had my breakfast, and then told me to sit down. Bhagavan talked to me the whole morning till it was time for the midday meal. He asked me many questions about myself and my life. All this seemed quite natural. Later I was to discover that he usually greeted visitors with a glance, made a few remarks and then remained silent, or waited for them to put their doubts and question him so that he might answer. Or often he appeared unconscious that anybody had entered, though this was only in appearance, for he was always fully conscious.

I found when I had been in the Ashrama a short time and was beginning to know my way about, that the best time to catch Bhagavan alone was at one o’clock in the afternoon when he came back from the Hill. Everyone who could would have slipped away for a siesta, except for one attendant whose duty it was to remain with Bhagavan in case he needed anything. This was before the days of electricity so a punkah had been hung just over Bhagavan’s couch and this would be kept in lazy motion by a sleepy attendant who was himself dying to run off and have a sleep. At times I would take his duty and let him go, at others I would sit up near the head of Bhagavan’s couch and talk to him. It was during these quiet hours that he instructed me and those quiet hours spent with him then were the most valuable of all.

Bhagavan was a very beautiful person; he shone with a visible light or aura. He had the most delicate hands I have ever seen with which alone he could express himself, one might almost say, talk. His features were regular and the wonder of his eyes was famous. His forehead was high and the dome of his head the highest I have ever seen. As this in India is known as the dome of wisdom it is only natural that it should be so. His body was well-formed and of only medium height, but this was not apparent as his personality was so dominant that one looked upon him as tall. He had a great sense of humour and when talking a smile was never far from his face.

He had many jokes in his repertoire and was a magnificent actor; he would always dramatise the protagonist of any story he related. When the recital was very pathetic, Bhagavan would be filled with emotion and unable to proceed. When people came to him with their family stories he would laugh with the happy and at times shed tears with the bereaved. In this way, he seemed to reciprocate the emotions of others. Bhagavan never raised his voice and, if he did occasionally seem angry, there was no sign of it on the surface of his peace. Talk to him immediately afterwards and he would answer calmly and quite undisturbed. He would never touch money, not because he hated it – he knew that for the purpose of daily life it was necessary – but he had never any need of it and was not interested in it.

People said that Bhagavan would not talk but this was untrue, as were many other foolish legends about him. He did not speak unnecessarily and his apparent silence only showed how much foolish chatter usually goes on amongst ourselves. He preferred every sort of simplicity and liked to sit on the floor, but a couch had been forced upon him and this became his home for most of the twenty-four hours of the day. He would never, if he could help it, allow any preference to be shown to him and in the dining room he was adamant on this point. Even if some special medicine or tonic were given to him he wanted to share it with everybody. “If it is good for me, then it must be good for the rest,” he would argue and make them distribute it round the dining hall. He would wander out to the Hill several times a day, and if any attachment to anything on earth could be said of him, it was surely an attachment to the Hill. He loved it and said it was God Himself.

Approached in the right way, Bhagavan would advise, though the majority of people who moved with him would deny it. They had never tried in the right way or, more probably, never intended to take permission at all. They thus bluffed themselves into thinking that he had given them leave and in this way did what they themselves had intended to do.

Bhagavan was invariably kind to all animals though he did not like cats or, I believe, mongooses; this was principally because the cats hunted his beloved squirrels or chipmunks. These squirrels used to run in and out of the Hall window over his couch and even his body. He would feed them with nuts and stroke them; some of them even had names. Their chief ambition seemed to be to make nests behind his pillows so that they might bring up their families under his protection.

On February 5th, 1949 the tragedy of the final illness had its inception. Bhagavan had been frequently rubbing his left elbow which was causing some irritation. His attendant inspected this to see what was the trouble and found a small lump the size of a pea. The doctor decided that it was only a small matter and should be removed by a local anaesthetic, and the operation was quietly performed in Bhagavan’s bathroom one morning just before the meal. This was the beginning of the end. The curtain on the last act was slowly descending. The growth turned out to be sarcoma.

I feel that I should not let the occasion pass without saying a word to those who doubt the continued presence of our Guru amongst us. Though we talk as though he were dead, he is indeed here and very much alive as he promised, in spite of appearances.

Often visitors have remarked, “But one can feel him more strongly than ever.” Of course, one misses the physical presence, the opportunity to ask questions, the delight of his greeting, the humour of his approach, and most of all his understanding and sympathy. Yes, one certainly misses all that, but one never doubts for a moment that he is still here when one has taken the trouble to visit his tomb.

When Sri Ramana lay dying, people went to him and begged him to remain for a while longer as they needed his help. His reply is well known:

“Go! Where can I go? I shall always be here.”

The power of Sri Ramana, who gave up his physical form, has not diminished. He is everywhere, like the light in a room shed by an electric bulb. But the light is found to be far stronger near the bulb, the source of light, than in any other part of the room, though no spot is in darkness. What wonder, then, if the power of our Guru is found near the place where his body is interred.

– Extracted from – A Sadhu’s Reminicences of Ramana Maharshi


Source: The Maharshi Newsletter Mar / Apr 1991

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