K. Venkatarathnam (1921-76), an Andhra, had a religious bent of mind since childhood. After his sacred thread ceremony at the age of seven, he never failed to repeat Gayatri mantra even for a day. He was advised by a religious teacher to go to Tiruvannamalai and serve Sri Ramana. The following account is as given by Rosner1, who had come to Ramanasramam in 1968 and had diligently served Venkatarathnam till his passing.
When Venkatarathnam came to Ramanasramam in 1944, he happened to meet Prof. Shiva Mohan Lal [no. 156], whom he had known before. Lal introduced him to the Maharshi. He sat down and began his japa. But strangely he could not remember his mantra even though he had repeated it so many lakhs times before. Suddenly, he felt an infinite Expanse of Pure Consciousness, the atma, which lasted for some time. He stayed for a few days and returned to his place; all the way Backin the train the same experience occurring again and again.
Later, when he came to the Ashram to serve Bhagavan, he worked at the bookstall and at the Ashram library. Bhagavan personally taught him how to bind books and also to read and write Tamil.
In 1949, Lal asked Bhagavan if Venkatarathnam could join as one of his personal attendants. Bhagavan said he had no objection provided the office gives the permission, which was given.
One day, Venkatarathnam quietly went behind the Maharshi in the hall and started fanning him, forgetting that he had earlier made it very clear that nobody need fan him. At this the Maharshi got angry saying, “Oho, very good, very special, this fellow thinks he is doing a great service. Why doesn’t he go and fan all bhaktas and get the punya of fanning the devotees of the Guru.” He spoke off and on like this to some devotees. Finally, when alone with the Maharshi, he broke down and asked Bhagavan to forgive him for having made Bhagavan exert himself so much to correct his fault. Bhagavan graciously said, “Never mind, everybody makes a mistake.“
Bhagavan had a number of attendants, who would serve him in shifts. Venkatarathnam chose to have 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift. It was the time when he got his heart’s desire fulfilled to be intimately close to Bhagavan. Many nights were spent in spiritual talk or simply gazing at the Divine face of the Maharshi.
At the sight of blood, while dressing the wound on Bhagavan’s hand [refer no. 122, p. 297 about Bhagavan’s illness], Venkatarathnam would feel faintness. Bhagavan rebuked him saying, “Don’t come near me. You people come here thinking that Bhagavan is sick and is dying. I don’t want you to come near me if you have such thoughts.” When he asked Bhagavan that without thinking that such and such thing must be done to relieve the suffering, how could he serve him, he was told that he should simply play his part as in a drama and do whatever is necessary with mental attitude of a witness attending to the work as the situation demands. Following Bhagavan’s instruction he began to feel that everything was atma vilasa (the Divine play) and that Bhagavan was simply playing a role as a sick person, although in reality he was the Paramatma Himself.
After the mahanirvana of the Maharshi he would feel sad whenever he thought of the love and concern that the Maharshi had towards him and would sometimes weep. After the 10th day following the mahanirvana he left for his native place but continued to visit and serve at the Ashram.
1. Neal Rosner, an American, got immersed into the spiritual heritage of India under the guidance of Venkatarathnam. This gets elaborated in his book On the Road to Freedoom: A Pilgrimage in India, Cassandra Press, P.O. Box 2044, Boulder, CO 80306. Rosner lived in Amritanandamayi’s Kerala Ashram as Swami Paramatamananda.