C. R. Pattabhi Raman was a minister at the Centre. He was son of Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, who was Dewan of Travancore.
My first meeting with Ramana Maharshi was in the early 1930s when I returned from England after my studies. I accompanied the young Maharaja of Travancore to Tiruvannamalai. The Maharshi was the same serene blissful self with a friendly and kindly look on his face.When the Maharaja asked him what the first step was for atma vichara, he said that the very fact that he had come to Tiruvannamalai was the first step for him.
The next important occasion when I went to Tiruvannamalai was a few days before the Maharshi’s bodily demise. I accompanied my father, Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, along with a friend. We were taken to the sage, who had been operated upon for a carcinomatous growth on his left arm. Apart from a few beads of perspiration on his forehead, there was nothing on his face to show that he was ill or suffering from pain. He proved beyond doubt that pain or sorrow did not affect a realised soul. A leading civil surgeon from Vellore expressed great surprise that the sage did not even want anesthesia for the operation and yet was able to stand the pain and the shock. Ramana Maharshi spoke a few words to my father and we took leave.
As we were getting ready for dinner, my father said to me that he did not want food and would have some milk. At that very moment an attendant ran to us with a message from the Maharshi, “The elderly person will say he will only have milk. Let him eat some fruits also.” It was miraculous because the Maharshi was nearly half a furlong away and could not have heard what my father was saying.
The Maharshi was unique in many respects. Like Dattatreya of the puranas, he did not have a guru as such. One could see on his face expressions of joy when recitations from the Vedas and Upanishads were taking place in the Ashram. His path of knowledge was not rigid or exclusive.
Sri Ramana did not seek to establish any new cult but showed the direct way to Self-realisation. He taught as a jivanmukta (liberated soul), exemplifying Tat tvam asi (‘Thou art That’ of the Chhandogya Upanishad). Like Suka of the Bhagavatam, he was characterised by samatva (sameness in joy and sorrow and freedom from duality).
He frequently referred to verses from the Yoga Vashista wherein the Sage Vashista advised the young Sri Rama to fulfil his mission as avatara purusha, all the while abiding in the Self. The ideal of Self-realisation is not visionary, but is the very goal of life. Unswerving abidance in the Self, the one eternal Truth, whatever one may be doing, is well described in the Yoga Vashista: Firmly established in the vision that shines forth/ On the renunciation of all desires, and rooted/ In your own Being as a jivanmukta / Act playfully in the world, Oh Raghava.
To have seen the Maharshi in flesh and blood and have heard his word is our great fortune and most treasured memory.