Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – N. Balarama Reddy

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N. Balarama Reddy, M.A. (1908-95), was brought up in spiritually-oriented surroundings in a village in Andhra Pradesh. He switched over to Sri Ramana in 1937 from Sri Aurobindo ashram, where he had gone in 1931. My Reminiscences details his long years of spiritual life and sadhana at Sri Ramanasramam.

Sri Bhagavan was a being whose advent into this world would bless the earth goddess. There is a line in the Bhagvatam which says: “They put their feet on the earth and the earth feels blessed.” To my mind, Bhagavan was one of the most glorious beings that have ever visited this earth. The more you live with him, the more you feel that you had done something in the past, something great which entitled you to deserve association with Bhagavan. Being with him is being elevated. You need not talk with him; you need not try to learn from him through speech. He was pouring out his grace like the rays of the sun – no stopping ever. Even now he will answer your call provided you are sincere – utterly sincere.

It is hard to describe and a wonder to see how Bhagavan bound all with his love. Words would never pass between Bhagavan and his longstanding devotees. Nevertheless, these devotees – whether men, women or children – knew that Bhagavan’s love and grace were being showered on them. By a single glance, a nod of the head, or perhaps by a simple enquiry from Bhagavan, sometimes not even directly but through a second person – the devotee knew that he was Bhagavan’s very own and that he cared for him. In his presence all distinctions and differences were resolved.

Bhagavan was the most considerate and kind-hearted. Even if he appeared indifferent to onlookers, he still took a keen interest in the progress of the seekers. I was helped many times by Bhagavan. For instance, due to a crisis in my family, I was informed that my continuous presence in the village was required. It meant I would have to leave Bhagavan for good.

When I received the news I went and explained it to Bhagavan who listened and then simply nodded his head. I understood the meaning of this nod only upon receiving a letter from my mother, who wrote that I need not leave the presence of Bhagavan and that she would attend to all the affairs in the village. This was a turning point in my worldly life and it was due, no doubt, to the direct intervention of Bhagavan’s grace.

In the first year of my settling down in Tiruvannamalai [where he had shifted for good in 1937], I was sitting in the hall and Bhagavan was explaining a particular spiritual point to me. During the discussions he asked me to bring a book from the almirah in the hall. Not finding the book, I returned to Bhagavan and sat down again facing him. Then Bhagavan slowly and majestically walked over to the almirah and immediately pulled out the book he had asked me to find. He closed the almirah and, to my surprise, instead of walking Backto the couch, came and sat on the floor right next to me.

He opened the book and holding it before my face, asked me to read the particular passage. Bhagavan’s attendants used to tell me that his body was like a furnace. Only then, when he sat so close to me, did I understand what they meant. I felt spiritual power emanating from his body like an electric dynamo. I was thrilled to the core of my being.

In Bhagavan we found a being that was so surcharged with Reality that coming into his presence would effect a dynamic change in us. The Divine Power of his presence was something remarkable, entirely outstanding.

I always felt there was something tangibly distinct in Bhagavan’s hall. When we walked into the hall and sat down, we immediately felt that we had entered a different plane of existence. It was as if the world we knew did not exist – Bhagavan’s presence, his otherworldliness, would envelop the atmosphere. When we walked out of the hall we were again confronted with the old world we knew all too well.

Usually, we could not tell if Bhagavan was asleep or awake, though in reality he was always awake – awake to the Self. How he managed to remain in that unbroken state of universal awareness and still functioned in a limited, physical form remains a mystery. We cannot understand that state. In spite of his exalted state, he interacted with us at our level. He took considerable interest in the functioning of the Ashram and the accommodation of visitors.

His actions were spontaneous and natural, and by watching him we learnt how to live in the world. His example was the greatest teaching, and his divine presence far outweighted a lifetime of strenuous sadhana. Just to think of him or sit in his presence used to raise us to higher levels of blessedness.

He understood human frailty and was determined to teach us how to transcend it, not dwell upon it.

Bhagavan’s whole life was simply an offering to the world. Everything he did was for others only. He wanted to liberate us from the mistaken belief that we are this body, mind and ego. For this he gave the method of Self-enquiry and showed us how to practise it. He effectively aided seekers by his powerful presence and grace.

One day, when he was still convalescing in the Ashram dispensary, I stood at his bedside and simply rested my eyes on him. No words passed between us, but I can never forget those cool, compassionate eyes that opened and bathed me in peace and love. This small event may seem insignificant to the onlooker. Yet, by that one look, soaked with immeasurable peace and grace, I felt complete security and confidence that his blessings would always be with me. Even now, more than forty years after he left his body, I feel that the same grace is flowing, enveloping and guiding me. How can it be described in words?

Once the private secretary to the Governor of Pondicherry came to the Ashram with a long list of questions written in an elaborate, complex style of French. Handing over the paper to Bhagavan, he sat on the window sill opposite the couch. Finding the questions in French, Bhagavan asked me to translate them.1

As I was struggling with word-by-word translation and was finding the French dil^.cult to translate, Bhagavan said, “That’s not necessary, just tell me the gist.” I scanned the questions and told Bhagavan that he really didn’t want oral answers but rather in the form of an experience.

Bhagavan paused for a moment, and then slowly turned his face in the direction of the questioner and rested eyes on him. After about 30 seconds, I noticed the man’s body trembling and shaking all over. Then he blurted out, “Oh no, Bhagavan, not now! Please, Bhagavan, not now!” I was standing at the side of Bhagavan, watching this extraordinary scene and wondering what a being this Bhagavan was. He was a storehouse of power, yet so kind, gentle and compassionate.

In early 1950, Sitarama Reddy, a minister in Madras government arrived at the Ashram. I was asked by the management to take him to Bhagavan in the Nirvana Room. When we walked into Bhagavan’s presence I noticed a peculiar radiance or a strange kind of soft splendour, pervading the room. I thought I was seeing this because of my devotion to Bhagavan. As soon as we came out of the room the minister turned to me and asked, “What was that radiance, pervading the Maharshi’s room?” When he said this without any probing from me, I remembered Ganapati Muni’s [no.91] second verse from Chatvarimsat – “Who is the repository of all the highest virtues, whose beatific effulgence is hidden by the sheath of the gross body, like the blazing sun hidden behind the clouds.

Many incidents in my life have instilled faith in the guiding presence of the Maharshi. I also felt assured that surrendering to him as my Guru was the best decision I had ever made.

1. Before coming to stay at Sri Ramanasramam, Balarama Reddy was for many years at Sri Aurobindo’s ashram in the French territory of Pondicherry, and had acquired a working knowledge of French.

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