Prof. Sista Subba Rao (1909-1980) taught English at the Hindu College, Machhlipatnam, Andhra Pradesh. He wrote his reminiscences in Telugu and later in English.
I first came to know of Bhagavan in early 1936 from Ramarao
Panthulu, my first guide on the spiritual path. He related an incident at the Ashram which convinced me of the mysterious powers of Bhagavan. A cobra crawled into a room. Several people gathered together and were trying to drive it out when Bhagavan came upon the scene. He addressed the serpent and said, “Please move away, these people are frightened by your presence.” The serpent at once went out. Panthulu suggested that I might get cured ofthe problem of my failing eyesight, if I sought Bhagavan’s blessings.
On June 3, 1936, I prostrated before Bhagavan and gave an account of my situation. Bhagavan remarked that my outer sight would be all right if and when I would get my inner sight. I did not understand and requested him to clarify. His answer was, “Not to have outer sight is to have inner sight.” I then begged him to enlighten me on the subject of developing the inner sight and he did so. This was a turning point in my life. My failing sight was my obsession till that moment. But the Maharshi’s upadesa brought about a change in my outlook. From that time, the question of improving my sight receded in the background and I started in right earnest my sadhana for getting the inner eye opened.
One evening, I had a peculiar experience during meditation. My breath became long and sonorous till it resembled the hissing of a serpent. My body became light and my hands, which were on my thighs, started dangling in the air. I felt every particle of my body virbrating and experienced a sort of inexpressible bliss. I did not however lose outer consciousness. This perculiar experience of mine soon attracted the attention of those seated in the hall. My wife was asked to bring some water that was sprinkled on my face. After a while, my body and my breathing came Backto normal. I came out of the hall and went home. After my departure, the devotees seemed to have asked Bhagavan what the matter was with me. Bhagavan seemed to have replied that I was unable to contain the intensity of the sadhana within and so I became externalized. This I was told when I came to the Ashram next morning.
Inspite of our extremely frugal life, my finances were running out short. There was absolutely no sign of improvement in my physical sight. On the other hand, the vision was gradually deteriorating. The prospects appeared very gloomy. There was every likelihood of the complete loss of eyesight. How then am I to eke out my livelihood? Further, I had a dependent in my wife. Thoughts of suicide often pressed themselves on me. There were many ponds around and on the hill. We could under the cover of darkness, easily drown ourselves in any of them.
I thought of presenting the facts to Bhagavan and beg him for a solution; but courage failed me. For one thing, Bhagavan always sat in the hall surrounded by a number of devotees; there was no privacy where I could meet him. Secondly, I was hesitant to worry Bhagavan with my personal worldly problems. But there was no alternative. One afternoon, I wrote out on a piece of paper an account of my financial, physical and mental condition and prayed for his grace. I handed over the paper to him and stood near him. He read it through and gave it Backto me, but said nothing. I resumed my seat.
Soon there was a change in my outlook on life. I said to myself, ‘Suffering is the result of sinful deeds in the present or past life and everyone must pay for his misdeeds, for every action has its own reaction. By putting an end to the present life, we are adding interest to the principal. Our past sins are the principal, while the suicide will be its interest. All karmic debts are to be cleared to the last penny. It is cowardice to try to escape from the hard facts of life.’ This changed attitude towards life put an end to all thoughts of suicide that thronged the mind previously. I became a changed person, ready to fight out the battle of life at all costs and under all circumstances.
This incident gave me an inkling into the ways of the mahatmas. They do not usually work physical or material miracles, but bring about miraculous changes in the mental condition of the devotees.
A few days before Bhagavan’s jayanti in 1940 or 1941, I had a sort of inspiration to compose a Sanskrit verse on Bhagavan. I did so and sent it to the sarvadhikari of the Ashram. In reply he said that the verse was read out on the jayanti day and was greatly appreciated by the devotees. The verse was: “Dwelling on the slopes of Arunachala, Sri Ramana, the Sun of Wisdom and Embodiment of Bliss, taught atma vidya effortlessly. I continually think of this matchless and measureless Guru.“
Sometime later, I saw Bhagavan in a dream seated on an elevated place like a throne. His body was shining like molten gold. Standing before him, I requested for my eyesight. He replied “That is not possible by me, you may have to go to someone else.” The dream ended.
My brother, a devotee, was an advocate. His clientele was very limited. He wanted to shift his practice to another place in expectation of better luck. He sought Bhagavan’s opinion about it. Bhagavan replied softly, “Is that so? Why don’t you consult an astrologer about it?” We could not help laughing.
A devotee complained, “I am unable to have peace of mind. I am planning to go to the Himalayas in search of it.” Bhagavan said, “You have travelled 250 miles from Madurai and come here. How much mental quietness have you got? Multiply it by the distance from here to the Himalayas to measure the happiness you would get by going there.” Even the questioner could not help laughing.
In reply to a visitor who remarked, “I have had enough of these family troubles, my only recourse is sannyasa”, Bhagavan observed, “Now you are crying over domestic worries; then you will have your share of sannyasi S problems. Mere change of clothes would not help. Find out the one for whom there is sorrow.”
Once I sought Bhagavan’s blessings on the ground that all my efforts to abide at the source ofthe mind had proved futile. When Bhagavan asked, “What is the obstruction?” I answered, “It is my deep-rooted tendencies. I need your grace.” His reply was, “Your repeated effort is bound to erase them. All sadhana is meant for this purpose only.” He further observed, “Keep up your practice. There is no need to remind God about His business which is to keep an eye always on our welfare. The mistake one is prone to make is to abandon effort under the mistaken impression that God’s grace is absent. But one should not slacken, for God’s grace is bound to operate at the ripe time.”