I went to Arunachala for the first time with Sri Rami Reddi. We had our food in the town and then went to the Ashrama. In those days there was very little there – a hut for Bhagavan and another over his mother’s samadhi (place of burial). Bhagavan had just finished his food and was washing his hands. He looked at us intently. “Did you have your food?” He asked. “Yes, we had it in town.” “You could have had it here,” he replied.
I stayed with him for three days. He made a great impression on me. I considered him to be a real Mahatma, although his ways were very simple. Most of the cooking was done by him in those days. The Ashrama lived from hand to mouth and usually only rice and vegetable soup were prepared.
When I was about to leave, I asked Bhagavan: “Bhagavan, kindly show me a good path.” “What are you doing now?” he asked. “When I am in the right mood, I sing the songs of Tyagaraja and I recite the holy Gayatri. I was also doing some pranayama but these breathing exercises have upset my health.”
Bhagavan said, “You had better stop them. But never give up the Advaita Dristhi (non dual vision).” At that time I could not understand his words.
I went to Benares for a month, returned to Pondicherry and spent five months there.
Wherever I would go people would find some fault or other with me: “You are too weak, not fit for yoga, you do not know how to concentrate, you cannot hold your breath, you are unable to fast, you need too much sleep, you cannot keep vigils, you must surrender all your property . . .” Only Bhagavan asked for nothing, found fault with nothing.
As a matter of truth, there was nothing in me that entitled me to his grace. But it did not matter with Bhagavan. He wanted me, not my goodness. It was enough to tell him “I am yours”, and for him to do the rest. In that way he was unsurpassed. The strange people he gathered around him! But those who gave themselves to him and trusted him and did his bidding were overwhelmed by his immense solicitude and kindness.
In 1930 I visited Ramanasramam for the second time, and stayed a month. Our life was very simple at that time. I would get up early each morning, have my bath near the well at Palitirtham, prepare sacramental food on a small stove and start worshipping the Lingam over Bhagavan’s mother’s samadhi. Chinnaswami helped in the chanting.
Bhagavan would make himself generally useful. He would talk quite freely with us every night after food. They would ply him with questions on philosophy and metaphysics. In the evening he would sit on a wooden cot near the well and gaze at Arunachala in deep silence. His face would glow with an inner radiance which would appear to increase with the deepening darkness. We were sitting all around him, either silently, or singing some song. Alamelamma would sometimes sing from Tiruppughazh. The silence and peace at those hours was quite remarkable.
At night after dinner all the inmates of the Ashrama would collect around Bhagavan, and then he was our own, telling stories, answering questions, dispelling doubts, laughing and joking. We never knew how late it was until Madhavaswami would go behind Bhagavan’s back and give us signs that it was time to allow Bhagavan some rest.
Note: To help readability, I selected some excerpts only from the Maharshi Newsletter Nov / Dec 1992, Vol.2 No.6 (As I Saw Him: By Krishna Bhikshu).