K. Arunachalam, a Gandhian social worker, hailed from Madurai. He served as chairman of the Madurai Khadi Board.
In the summer of 1932, I was working with a group of young men in the slums of Bangalore. I had been to my village in Madurai district and was returning to Bangalore to resume my work in the Gandhi School run by the Deena Seva Sangh. On my way back, as suggested by a friend, I stopped at Tiruvannamalai to have Ramana Maharshi’s darshan. I reached the Ashram and went to the hall where the Maharshi was seated on a sofa. In a corner of the hall, on the top of a cupboard, I saw an eighteen-inch statue of Mahatma Gandhi. I sat in front of the Maharshi along with several others in meditation. A few were reading silently some religious literature.The Maharshi himself was in samadhi. Some were reciting slokas in a soft melodious tone. On the whole, the atmosphere was an elevating one.
I sat in silence for hours together. When it was time for the night meal, all the devotees got up and walked towards the adjoining dining hall. I also went with them. After the meal some of us went Backto the hall. I decided to sleep in the hall as some others did. I could not sleep because I was inquisitive to know what the Maharshi would do.
He got up from the sofa at 3 O’clock in the morning and walked towards the pond. After the essential morning routine he had a dip in the pond. He changed his kaupina (loincloth) and washing the used one, let it dry outside. Then he walked Backto the hall and reclined on the sofa. After sometime, he got up, went to the kitchen and joined the group that was cutting vegetables. He supervised the breakfast and ate with the visitors and Ashramites.
During the daytime there was a stream of visitors who prostrated before the Maharshi. Sometimes he opened his eyes and blessed them with a smile. Occasionally he spoke a few words. When the daily newspaper arrived, he glanced through its pages. Most of the time his eyes remained half closed. There was a calm peace in the whole environment that surpassed all understanding. I sat silently watching and enjoying the holy presence of the Maharshi and spent a full three-day period like this.
Before leaving, I asked the Maharshi whom to follow. He enquired about what I was doing. I gave him an idea of the slum-settlement work in Bangalore and told him how we were engaged in harijan uplift and prohibition work. He blessed the work and asked me to continue it in the manner in which Mahatma Gandhi wanted such work done. I asked the Maharshi for his autograph. He did not agree but he wanted the sarvadhikari who was standing nearby to write my name.When I gave him my name without initial, the sarvadhikari asked my father’s name. The Maharshi immediately said,”How can Arunachala have a father?” And he laughed.
I requested the Maharshi to clear a doubt of mine. He showed his willingness by a broad smile. Taking courage, I posed the following problem: “The Maharshi by his example directs his followers to keep quiet, but
Mahatma Gandhi whose statue is here, by his own example, goads everyone to be continuously active.”The Maharshi’s face broadened with an unparalleled smile. He asked, “Who told you that I am sitting quiet?” I replied in all humility that I had seen it with my own eyes. He said, “Why do you think that what you are seeing with your physical eyes is the truth?” I had no answer for this question. I took leave of him and left for Bangalore.
In 1951-52, during my tour of the southern United States I came in touch with a group of Whites who were deeply involved in the desegregation movement. They did not differentiate between one and another whether black or white. I found in the study room of the leader of this group a photo of Ramana Maharshi, whom he had never seen. He revealed that it was the Maharshi’s teaching that was a driving force in all his activities undertaken for bringing about equality between the two races – the Whites and the Coloured. He evinced a deep interest in the Maharshi’s mode of self-enquiry for self-realisation. Now I understood the true import of the Gita’s teaching: “He who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he is a yogi who has accomplished all action.”