T.R.Kanakammal’s uncle Ramakrishna Iyer, a Munsif at Tiru-vannamalai, was one of the earliest devotees of Sri Ramana. Her father had also settled down in the town. Married against her wishes, she never led a family life. The book Cherished Memories (originally in Tamil) and the video Guru Ramana contain her memoires.
I have been visiting the Ashram regularly, but came to settle permanently in 1946. A few days before shifting, I had a strange and wonderful experience. It was my normal practice to get up at four in the morning and spend time in meditation. One morning, when I had not risen from the bed, I felt Bhagavan sitting beside me caressing my neck and throat. He smiled and said, “What is it that you gave me? Why is it that I love you so much?” All my senses were aware of Bhagavan’s presence by my side. I have no idea how long I lay like that. Even after getting up, I continued to be aware of some unusual feeling deep in my heart. A great peace had taken possession of my senses. Though I carried on with my routine activities, I was in a dazed state. My parents noticed the change in me. They had no choice but to let me have my way, and allowed me to be in Bhagavan’s company.
Living alone in a room near the Ashram, managing cooking and handling many domestic chores, meant difficulties and frustrations. But every morning my heart sang at the very thought of spending the day in Bhagavan’s presence. Entering the Ashram I could feel a transformation within myself. All my petty worries disappeared as if by magic. I also found each one of my faculties slowly calming down. It is difficult to describe this feeling. At times, it was as though I was totally detached from my body. I was in a state of ecstasy.
Sometimes, I found Bhagavan directing his eyes at me. The intensity of his gaze was, at times, almost impossible to bear. My mind would get completely absorbed in the Self without any kind of effort on my part. The peace and joy of the experience used to linger on for a long time after leaving the hall.
One day, after I prostrated and settled down in the hall, Bhagavan’s eyes stayed on me. Bhagavan’s gaze makes it impossible for you to keep your eyes open. The intensity of his direct look is too much for an ordinary human being to take. It is as though some invisible power has entered you and made its way to the very core of your being and there is nothing but the blissful awareness of the Self.
When this happened for a short while, I would gaze at Bhagavan with my eyes open. But within a few seconds, my eyes would close of their own accord and I got totally immersed in a peace, which is beyond description. I do not know how long I would stay in that state of bliss. When I managed to open my eyes, I saw that Bhagavan’s gaze was still upon me. Then I saw Bhagavan getting up and going out of the hall. I also stood up. Kameswaramma (a lady devotee) embraced me and with tears in her eyes, said, “Kanakamma, you are indeed fortunate. Bhagavan’s eyes were on you all the time. Not for a moment did he shift his gaze. I was watching you and Bhagavan all the time. Bhagavan has been extremely gracious to you today. What more can you want!” I was unable to respond to these words because I was in a state beyond speech. The state of my mind was indescribable. I felt a deep peace within me, which stayed for many days afterwards. Everytime I think about that day’s experience, I feel the same thrill of ecstasy.
One day a young, well-educated man came to Bhagavan, prostrated and sat down. Addressing Bhagavan he said, “Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was able to elevate Vivekananda to the state of nirvikalpa samadhi with just a touch. Can Bhagavan do the same for me?” Bhagavan did not say anything.The young man waited with obvious impatience for Bhagavan’s reply. After a few minutes of silence, Bhagavan looked at the youth and, in a soft voice asked, “You are another Vivekananda, I presume?” The young man was taken aback. He was at a loss for words. Greatly embarrassed, he left the hall quietly.
Bhagavan then told us, “It is difficult to appreciate the need for self-analysis and self-criticism. The tendency is to think of oneself as perfect. Though this person was eager to see whether I had the power of Sri Ramakrishna, he was not bothered whether he himself merited comparison with Vivekananda. That is because he assumed that he was perfect. Sri Ramakrishna bestowed that rare state upon Vivekananda alone because he was a person of rare spiritual merit.“
Once Subbalakshmi Ammal [No.68], a long-standing devotee and a cook at the Ashram was indiscriminately plucking flowers from a bush. Bhagavan asked, “What are you doing, Lakshmi?” She replied, “I am plucking flowers forpuja“” Pointing to the towel, which she had spread on the ground to collect flowers, Bhagavan said, “You already have so many flowers. Why pluck more?” The lady artlessly replied, “There are so many flowers on this bush. I thought it would be better to gather them, rather than let them go waste.” Bhagavan retorted, “You have already seen and enjoyed the sight of the bush laden with beautiful flowers. Now you do not care whether anybody else gets a chance to enjoy the same heart-warming sight. Or may be you have some exclusive right over this bush. Did you plant it and nurture it yourself, thus making it your personal property?” Subbalakshmi Ammal told us that after the incident, she was reminded of Bhagavan’s words everytime she saw a flowering bush!