Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Kundalmal A. Mahatani

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Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Kundalmal A. MahataniBack

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Kundalmal A. Mahatani belonged to Karachi (now in Pakistan). After his first visit in 1944, he was a regular visitor to the Ashram. Day by Day with Bhagavan contains answers to many questions put by him to Sri Ramana.

I had the good fortune to hear about Bhagavan for the first time in 1942, through a friend who lent me Brunton’s A Search in Secret India [No.1]. I was extremely impressed when I learnt that such a great sage as Bhagavan, did exist in our land. I ordered all books containing Bhagavan’s teachings and after having gone through them found the teachings profound and easy to grasp. A great longing arose in me to have his darshan, but I could visit the Ashram only in January 1944. In the meantime, whatever doubts I had while reading the books I used to get them cleared through letters to the Ashram.

I enjoyed Bhagavan’s presence for eleven months at a stretch. After that I used to go to the Ashram every winter and stay three to four months at a time till Bhagavan’s mahanirvana in April 1950. From the point of view of the onlookers, he appeared to be suffering. When many devotees lamented over his ailment, he laughed and said, “They have not yet realised that I am not the body and that I am not going anywhere.

To me Bhagavan is more than all other gods or prophets so far incarnated on this earth, such as Rama, Krishna, the Buddha, Christ, Muhammad, Nanak and others. I have only read and heard about them and cannot have proper conceptions of them. Even the numerous pictures of them are only imaginary and naturally different from one another. Therefore, it is impossible to have an exact conception of any of them. On the other hand, I have seen Bhagavan and therefore I have a very clear conception of an ideal to meditate upon.

In my humble opinion, Bhagavan was a jivanmukta. Many have heard and read a great deal about the state of a jivanmukta, but he actually demostrated that state of being above body-consciousness.

Even now I feel his presence just as before, when I see his large photo on the couch in the old hall. It is as if he is sitting there just as usual, with a smiling face and a compassionate look, with the only difference that now he does not talk but is in mounam.

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Santha Rangachary was a journalist. She also served on the editorial board of The Mountain Path during 1980-88.

I desperately needed a confidante, an adviser, somebody preferably outside the family, and out of the blue the name of Ramana Maharshi came to me. His was the only name I had ever heard my father – a stubborn, intolerant sceptic – mention without any adverse suffixes. I decided, therefore, to write to the sage asking him directly: “Please, I beg of you, help me with my temper problem.” Within a week I received a reply signed by the sarvadhikari, containing the Maharshi’s message that if I myself made a constant and earnest effort to overcome my temper I would rid myself of it, and that he sends me his blessings.

My first reaction to that letter was one of astonishment at being treated like a grown up, since I had always been told what to do, guided, instructed, warned but never challenged except on a Sports Day. And here was this great Guru telling me: “It is your temper, isn’t it? So, you yourself deal with it.” He had simply batted the ball Backto my court in the nicest possible way by treating me as an individual in my own right. I rather liked that.

Ramana Maharshi entered my life again a year or so later when my sister took our family on a pilgrimage.We were to stay at Sri Ramanasramam only for two days. But as it turned out, we stayed for the whole week and I wept like a lost child when we had to leave. The visit was a shattering experience for me. I do believe I literally fell in love with Ramana Maharshi. I was in a daze, a trance, my tongue was gone, my mind was gone, I was in a state of dumbfounded ecstasy. This love, which had been awakened, was the kind which totally bypasses the physical plane and creates an awareness of a different kind of consciousness which can only be described as a mindless rapture, pure joy. It is an unlocated, pervasive state of being sparked off by some kind of recognition and it stays with you, and you are never the same again.

When we went to Sri Ramana’s hall, my mother, brother and sister went ahead and quickly disappeared into the hall. I hung back, unaccountably apprehensive. Then, as I at last composed myself and got to the door and looked in, I saw reclining on a sofa, a golden-brown figure with the most radiant countenance I had ever seen before or since and, as I stood there riveted to the spot, the Maharshi looked at me. When I remember it even now, more than forty years later, tears come to my eyes as they did then. I stood there, God knows how long, just looking at that face. Then, as in a trance, I moved forward deliberately towards him and touched his feet. Fighting my way through the disapproving glance that followed, as devotees were not allowed to touch Bhagavan, I made my way to a place near the window.

Once seated, I let my tears flow. I remember I spent a good part of that morning wiping my eyes. They were not tears of grief nor were they tears of joy. Maybe they were for something which I saw in the Maharshi fleetingly and which I also want and shall forever seek. Yes, I cried for myself then and I still do it now.

Never before had I seen in a human countenance a more intense, inward life and yet one which remained so transparent and childlike. There was about him an irresistible and indefinable spiritual power, which simply overwhelmed me. I was conscious of people sitting all around me but was totally incurious about them. After an hour or so of silence I suddenly felt like singing. Without hesitation or embarrassment, I lifted my 12 year-old voice in a rendition of Tyagaraja’s Ninne kori Yunnanura, keeping time softly with my fingers on my knee. After a few minutes, I threw myself with another gush of abandon into Thelisi Rama Chintana. As I began the anupallavi which exhorts the mind to stay still for a moment and realise the true essence of the name of Rama, I saw the Maharashi turn his eyes upon me with that impersonal yet arresting look of his, my heart soared and I thought: ‘I want to be here for ever and ever’.

For three hours every morning and every evening my vigil in the hall continued for seven days. I sat in my seat near the window, still and thought-free, just gazing at the Maharshi. Occasionally somebody would ask a question and the Maharshi would turn and look at him, and you got the feeling that the question had been answered. Or, somebody would ask for the meaning of a particular phrase in a Sanskrit or Tamil stanza and the Maharshi would answer softly, briefly.

The Maharshi was not a man of many words. His long years of practised detachment from people made him absolutely brief in speech. His knowledge of classical Tamil religious literature was considerable; he could himself compose verses and he did. His enlightenment had not been directed by a Guru but had come from his Self-consciousness. His most effective form of communication was intra-personal through the sense of sight and the medium of silence. He was very much a human being, who laughed and joked occasionally, but he could suddenly plunge deep into himself while sitting in a hall full of people and rest in that stillness of spirit, which as he himself said, was being in God.

One afternoon, somebody showed the Maharshi some verses. The Maharshi read them and made a brief comment. In those eloquent silences that punctuated his brief remarks, one seemed to feel unspoken thought flowing around the room touching and drawing everybody into its illuminating course. That was a strange experience to me. In the presence of the Maharshi, speech seemed redundant. I was totally and blissfully satisfied just being in his presence.

That whole week I practically did nothing else but sit in the hall. I had never before spent so many days talking so little, just sitting around so much, or so lost in a single-minded pursuit of the Maharshi.

I shall not claim that my whole life was transformed after this meeting. No. I went Backto school and then to college, got married, set up a house, had children, started a journalistic career of my own. My grihastasram became my main preoccupation. But my visit to Sri Ramanasramam had done something to me. It left a mark on my mind and heart. The picture of the Ashram and of the Maharshi was always in my mind like the background curtain of a stage. Whenever I was tired or dispirited or perplexed, the wish to go to Sri Ramanasramam would possess me like hunger. Even when I was so busy that I did not know whether I was coming or going, a sudden look at a picture of the Maharshi hanging on the wall would momentarily root me to the spot and my mind would suddenly go blank.

Whenever I feel I want to go away somewhere, away from home, family, friends, books, mistakes, fears, sorrows, my mind automatically turns to Sri Ramanasramam.1 And my body follows. I make the journey to Tiruvannmalai, walk into the Ashram, enter the hall, and I am ‘home’ and totally at peace.

Every human being has really only one guru like one mother. Some are fortunate enough to meet their gurus; some pass them by, like ships in the night. I stumbled upon mine when I was twelve; I now stand alone in myself. In a sense I am twelve-going-on thirteen all over again, standing on another threshold, remembering, waiting.

1. Dr. Paul Brunton expresses the same feeling when he says: I have travelled in many lands but always my thought turned towards Tiruvannamalai as the Muhammedan turns his face towards Mecca. I knew that somewhere in the wilderness of this world there was a sacred place for me. The Silent Power, Sri Ramanasramam, p.76.

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