Beauty of a Devotee’s Soul
Passages from the Diary of a Pilgrim to Sri Ramanasramam
January 8, 1983 – Our trip to Madras
The pleasant taxi ride which Paul, Ganesan and I were enjoying on the way to Madras became a nightmare when at Chingleput our driver took a drink of some narcotic. However, good fortune was the final result of our misfortune for we were forced by circumstance to spend the night in the home of the President’s [Sri T. N. Venkataraman’s] daughter, Lakshmi.
Lakshmi’s sublime devotion to Sri Bhagavan made a sweet and very deep impression on me. She was elated and enraptured to be visited by Bhagavan’s devotees. The devotion with which she one-pointedly served all and the way she later kept me up during the night to talk of Bhagavan deeply inspired me. Her dedicated and devoted presence uplifted us all immensely.
I entered Lakshmi’s kitchen and saw on her shrine the two cutting knives I had brought to India. “I brought these for you,” I said.
Looking at me with her deep, dark eyes she replied, “Your presence is the greatest gift for us.” Extremely fatigued, I looked away and she caught my eyes again, “Do you understand?” she said most tenderly, pressing my arm with her hand.
Lakshmi served dinner in the traditional manner: she remained standing and waited on all, refusing to eat herself. She seemed to know the want of each. Her food was delicious and mild. It had the mark of being prepared by a devotee, for it was so light and pleasing.
At night Lakshmi and I stayed up to share some of our experiences before falling asleep. She seemed never to tire of offering little services! She placed water by my side just in case I became thirsty in the middle of the night; she offered to rub my temples with oil, thinking I must have had a headache after our going about Madras during the day in the heat. In fact, while I thought I was drifting off to sleep I heard her voice: “Oh, how I feel like staying up with you to talk! Please, tell me something about yourself, your Ashrama and Bhagavan!” I opened my eyes and found her leaning close to me in the dark!
Lakshmi was nine years old when Bhagavan left the body and is the eldest sister of the family. “Bhagavan must have been like a father for you,” I said.
“Bhagavan was everything to us,” she exclaimed, her eyes shining in the dark, “even though we were playful children, he was our mother, father, brother, sister, grandfather – everything!”
“I must have been an Indian in my former birth,” I mused, “because when I am here with devotees like you I feel so happy and light.”
“Where is India and where is America?” she cried out, putting her face nearer to mine, “We are all only with Bhagavan, wherever we may be!”
That night Lakshmi confided openly about the hardship she and all her sisters experienced on leaving Sri Ramanasramam after their marriages. Maybe in the end they will all return there, I thought.
The next morning she insisted that I sit with her again in the kitchen as she prepared dosais for us. Though her cooking was so light and delightful she apologized for it and said, “I am not at all talented.”
She served us with so much kindness and love that upon our leaving I saw her eyes rimmed in tears. In her life I could see and feel a cool, gentle breeze of devotion issuing out from a heart filled with the holy presence of Bhagavan. Only by Bhagavan’s grace can we meet such pure and humble souls.
Evelyn Kaselow Saphier