Dr. Shankar Rao, a retired District Medical Officer, attended on Sri Ramana almost from the start of his illness.
To have served Bhagavan as a doctor is no ordinary privilege and no ordinary experience. It was an education of the highest type, a training of a unique character. It provided me with vivid glimpses into the human as well as the superhuman and god-like personality of Sri Maharshi.
When I first came to the Ashram in December 1948, Bhagavan had a small nodule under the skin above the elbow. It was removed in February 1949. A microscopic examination revealed it to be a malignant tumour of the flesh. The wound did not heal and after a few days a new growth appeared.The tumour subsided a little as a result of radium treatment, but it again began to grow. In August, the tumour was removed with the help of surgeons from Madras. In December 1949, a small nodule again appeared in the middle of the arm which was operated. By the middle of February 1950, the tumour again started growing. All treatment, including homeopathic and ayurvedic failed. The general health of Bhagavan continued to deteriorate and the end came on April 14, 1950.
Bhagavan’s attitude towards his body was one of complete detachment. Disease and pain left no impression on his mind. If he allowed himself to he treated for the ailment, it was more because his devotees wanted it than because he desired relief. His attitude was always of supreme indifference to bodily ailments. To everyone by his side, the way he bore the pain, which was at times extremely excruciating, without showing signs of suffering on his face, was a wonder.
One of my friends took photographs of Sri Bhagavan one afternoon. During the night when we both were together and I was dressing the wound, he referred to the photos and gave a profound spiritual discourse using the science of photography as an illustration. He said, “For taking a picture the silver salts are coated over a film in the dark and when the film is exposed in the camera, you get an impression caused by light outside. If the film is exposed to light before you put it in the camera there can be no impression on it. So is it with ourjiva. When it is still in darkness, impression can be made on it by the little light that leaks in. But when the light of knowledge has already flooded it, no impressions of external objects can be obtained.” In a similar fashion, he used to entertain his medical attendants with jokes interspersed with profound spiritual education.
To watch Bhagavan and listen even to his day-to-day talk was an education to those who were near him. There was no need to read books on religion or philosophy. His whole philosophy and the philosophy of ages were in Bhagavan’s life. His life was an exposition ofthe highest philosophy.