Editor’s Note: Kunju Swami was one of the great devotees of Sri Ramana.
IT WAS IN 1919 that I first came to Sri Bhagavan. He was then living at Skandasramam on the slope of the Hill Arunachala. His mother and brother lived with him. Palaniswami used to attend to his few personal wants. Plague had driven away most of the inhabitants of the town and consequently visitors to Sri Bhagavan were few. I was, therefore, left alone with Sri Bhagavan most of the time.
I related to him all the spiritual practices I had been doing, what I had been studying, and what experiences I had. At that time I was very unhappy because in spite of all I had done I was unable to experience samadhi.
After patiently hearing me out, Bhagavan quoted from Kaivalya Navaneeta : “If you realize who you are, there is no cause for sorrow.” “So if you come to understand who you are, then there is peace,” said Bhagavan.
Well, I did not know what was meant by “know who you are”. Bhagavan went on to explain that the mind is only a bundle of thoughts and that if I seek the source of all thoughts I would be drawn into the Heart. He simultaneously pointed to his Heart.
Bhagavan was looking at me intently and I focused my attention in the manner he instructed me and within a few minutes I was led into samadhi. I was thrilled. Coming to my senses we went for lunch. Then again, I sat before him and by a single look he put me into that blissful state.
This experience occurred again and again-during all seventeen days that I stayed with Bhagavan. I was like one intoxicated. I was absolutely indifferent to everything. I had no curiosity to see anything, no desire whatsoever. What I did I did most mechanically. I would have continued to live in this state if it had not occurred to me that it was not proper to partake of the food that was offered to Sri Bhagavan by his devotees without paying anything. I thought that he had initiated me into the experience of Brahman and that I had nothing more to gain by staying in his presence. I, therefore, returned to my native place and began to practice meditation in a room in my house all by myself. I could succeed to gain and retain that experience only for a few days; it started to diminish gradually and at last one day it was lost. I could not regain the experience. I decided to return to Sri Bhagavan. This I did, and great good fortune awaited me when I came.
Palaniswami, who was rendering personal service to Sri Bhagavan, had to go on a journey for some time. Before going he asked me to render such service. This I considered to be my greatest good fortune. I felt extremely happy for the grace which Bhagavan had shown me. I did not thereafter bother myself about the spiritual experience.
I, however, asked Bhagavan why I could not get the experience when I meditated in my house. Bhagavan said: “You have read Kaivalya Navaneeta, have you not? Don’t you remember what it says?” And he took up the book and read the relevant verses.
Sri Bhagavan then explained to me at great length the purport of these verses. They relate to the doubt raised by the disciple about the need to continue spiritual practices even after one has had the supreme experience. The disciple wonders whether the spiritual experience once gained could be lost. The Guru says that it would be until he took care to practise sravana, manana and nididhyasana, that is hearing from the Guru the Truth, reflecting over it and assimilating it. The experience would occur in the presence of the Guru, but it would not last. Doubts would arise again and again and in order to clear them the disciple should continue to study, think and practice. These would be done until the distinction of the knower, the object of knowledge and the act of knowing no longer arise. In the view of Sri Bhagavan’s explanation I decided to stay always by Bhagavan’s side and practise sravana, manana and nididhyasana.
In olden days when we had the benefit of receiving personal instructions from Sri Bhagavan, one of them was to get into meditation before going to sleep. Thus sleep overtook one as a natural sequel to fatigue and was not induced or preceded by lying down. Also the first thing in the morning, immediately on getting up from bed was to go into meditation. This ensured a serenity of mind and also a feeling of tirelessness throughout the day. The state of mind immediately before sleep is resumed on waking.
After spending about twelve years in personal attendance on Bhagavan, I began to feel an urge to devote myself entirely to sadhana. However, I could not easily reconcile myself to giving up my personal service to Bhagavan. I had been debating the matter for some days when the answer came in a strange way.
As I entered the hall one day I heard Bhagavan explaining to others who were there that real service to him did not mean attending to his physical needs but following the essence of his teaching: that is concentrating on realizing the Self. Needless to say, that automatically cleared my doubts.
I therefore gave up my Ashrama duties, but I then found it hard to decide how, in fact, I should spend the entire day in search of Realization. I referred the matter to Bhagavan and he advised me to make Self-enquiry my final aim but to practise Self-enquiry, meditation, japa and recitation of scripture turn by turn, changing over from one to another as and when I found the one I was doing irksome or difficult. In course of time, he said, the sadhana would become stabilized in Self-enquiry or pure Consciousness or Realization.
Before recommending any path to an aspirant Bhagavan would first find out from him what aspect or form or path he was naturally drawn to and then recommend the person to follow it. He would sometimes endorse the traditional stages of sadhana, advancing from worship (puja) to incantation (japa), then to meditation (dhyana), and finally to Self-enquiry (vichara). However, he also use to say that continuous and rigorous practice of any one of these methods was adequate in itself to lead to Realization.
Once some awkward problems concerning the Ashrama management came up. Without being directly concerned, I was worried about them, as I felt that failure to solve them satisfactorily would impair the good name of the Ashrama.
One day two or three devotees went to Bhagavan and put the problems before him. I happened to enter the hall while they were talking about them, and he immediately turned to me and asked me why I was interesting myself in such matters. I did not grasp the meaning of his question, so Bhagavan explained that a person should occupy himself only with that purpose with which he had originally come to the Ashrama and asked me what my original purpose had been. I replied: “To receive Bhagavan’s grace.” So he said: “Then occupy yourself with that only.”
He further continued by asking me whether I had any interest in matters concerning the Ashrama management when I first came here. On my replying that I had not, he added: “Then concentrate on the original purpose of your coming here.”
There are numerous photos of Bhagavan. Have you ever seen one with his eyes closed ? Bhagavan was pouring out his grace through his eyes. There would be any number of devotees sitting before him and each one would feel that Bhagavan was looking only at him or her.
Bhagavan’s dristhi (sight) was concentrated on space only. It was turned inward and everyone felt inwardly, in their hearts, that his sight was focused on them alone. Bhagavan cares about everyone, and his look pierces through each one’s heart, dispels our darkness, gives us peace, even some liberation.