Rangan (Velacheri Ranga Iyer) was a classmate of Sri Ramana.
In June 1907, I saw Bhagavan for the first time since we were at school together. I asked, “Do you recognise me?” Bhagavan uttered ‘Rangan’ with difficulty. In those days he spoke little and found it difficult to use his voice. My mother had already told me about her first visit in the late 1890s when Bhagavan was residing in a temple on a mound near the main Arunachaleswara Temple,1 Tiruvannamalai.
Many years later, talking to me about my mother’s visit, Bhagavan said, “When your mother came to see me, she was frightened by my ascetic appearance and attire. My hair was all matted and my body was completely covered with dust.” He added that at that time he was never aware of the passage of time. Sometimes, when he tried to stand up, his head would reel and he would lose his balance. When this happened he concluded that he must have spent many days in a state in which he had not been conscious of the world. Apart from these periodic bouts of weakness he had no other way of detecting the passage of time. When asked whether he had any food in those days, he replied, ” When there is no consciousness of the body, the bodily functions are also suspended.“
At the time of my departure after the first visit, I told Bhagavan, “You have reached great heights.” His reply was, “The far off mountains look even and smooth.” I felt that he was telling me that one could become ajnani even while living an ordinary householder’s life. He seemed to be telling me that there was nothing special or great in physical renunciation.
The next time I met Bhagavan, I was on my way to Madras in search of a job. My financial circumstances were in a bad state at the time. Bhagavan seemed to know this even though I never mentioned the subject. My attempts for a job being unsuccessful, I returned home via Tiruvannamalai. As soon as I saw Bhagavan, he brought up the subject of my financial problems. That night when I was lying, Bhagavan came and sat next to me. I got up and sat by his side. “Rangan”, he asked, “Are you worried about the financial difficulties? Will ten thousand rupees be enough for you?” Eventually, I got a job in an automobile company, selling buses. Since I got a commission on each bus sold, I was able to raise the Rs.10,000 that Bhagavan had spoken about. This money was enough to pay off my debts and to perform marriages of two of my daughters.
Living with Bhagavan induced a spirit of renunciation in many, including myself, but Bhagavan always discouraged his devotees from taking the final steps of physical renunciation. My urge to take sannyasa subsided and eventually disappeared.
There were many occasions when I needed help and I soon got into the habit of telling Bhagavan all about my family troubles on my visits to the Skandasram. On one occasion he turned to me and said, “You think that your own troubles are very great. What do you know of my troubles? Let me tell you about one incident.
Once, while climbing a steep part of the mountain, I was holding on to a rock to keep my balance. The rock was loose and would not take my weight. I fell Backand was partly buried by a small avalanche of stones. I managed to remove them but found my left thumb dislocated. It was hanging loosely near the finger. I pushed Backthe thumb into its socket.” Bhagavan’s mother told me that she could not bear to recall that accident. He came home bleeding all over.
I got on very well with Bhagavan’s mother because we had known each other when she lived in Madurai. On one occasion she told me, “One day when I was looking steadily at Bhagavan, his body gradually disappeared and in its place I saw the lingam. The lingam was very bright. I could not believe my eyes. I rubbed my eyes but I still saw the same, bright lingam. I was frightened because I thought my son was leaving us forever. Fortunately, the lingam gradually transformed itself into Bhagavan’s body.” After hearing her account I looked at Bhagavan for confirmation or comment, but he just smiled and said nothing.
When my son was writing a book called Bhagavan Parinayam (The marriage of Bhagavan) in which Bhagavan marries jnana kanya (the bride jnana), I had told him about the incident and he incorporated it in his manuscript. A few months later, when my son read out his book before Bhagavan, he was asked how he knew about the incident. “My father told me”, replied my son. ‘Oh!’Said Bhagavan, “Did he really tell you all about that?” The other devotees were curious to know more about the incident because none of them had heard about it, but Bhagavan said, “It was nothing,” and diverted their attention to something else.
Once, I went out of the Skandasram for a short period of time, leaving Bhagavan sleeping inside. When I returned, I saw him sitting outside on a bed. I thought nothing of it until I went inside the ashram and saw Bhagavan was sleeping inside, in the position I had seen him when I left the ashram. When I told Bhagavan about this later, he smiled and said, “Why did you not tell me then itself? I could have caught the thief!“
This was typical of Bhagavan’s response to the supernatural. If such events were reported to him, he would either ignore them or pass them off as a joke. This was because he didn’t want any of his devotees to be sidetracked from their main goal of realising the Selfinto an unproductive interest in miraculous phenomena.
Although Bhagavan preferred to keep his exalted state a secret from the public, he would occasionally show us glimpses of his power and knowledge. Once, for example, a devotee, who was sitting at a distance from Bhagavan, copying some Sanskrit verses, had a doubt about what he should write. Bhagavan, without even being asked, called over to him and cleared his doubt; but he rarely showed his omniscience so openly.
I witnessed another manifestation of Bhagavan’s power on one of my visits to the Skandasram. Two men came from a village and asked Bhagavan to give them vibhuti with his own hand. They refused to collect the vibhuti from the place where it was kept, even when told by Bhagavan to do so, and eventually left disappointed. I followed them and asked, “Why did you want the vibhuti from Bhagavan’s own hands? Why were you so insistent?”One of them told me, “I used to have leprosy. I once came to see Bhagavan and he gave me some vibhuti with his own hand. I applied it to my body and soon there were no signs of the disease. This is my friend. He also has leprosy. That is why I ask for vibhuti from Bhagavan’s hands.” Bhagavan must have known that he had inadvertently cured the leper of his disease. He probably refused to repeat it because he didn’t want to acquire reputation as a ‘miracle man’.
Because my brothers and I had received so much benefit from being in Bhagavan’s presence, we made it a point to encourage other people to go to Tiruvannamalai and have Bhagavan’s darshan. A friend of ours, who went to see Bhagavan at our behest, on his return told us, “What a useless swami you sent me to! On an ekadasi day he was cutting onions.“
Once Bhagavan told me, “You and your brothers have broadcast the news that there is a Maharshi here. Some people believe you until they come here and see me sitting in a corner. Then they think, oh, is this the man? They get disappointed and go away cursing you.“
Although Bhagavan managed to maintain a facade of ordinariness, he was able to see the spiritual worth of everyone who came to see him, and would not let himself be understood by the undeserving.
Bhagavan could recognise spiritual maturity in the people around him. He could also discern it in the animals that came to him. One day, Bhagavan’s mother asked, “Why does that dog always like to stay in your lap?” Bhagavan turned to me and said, “This dog is always in unwavering samadhi. A great soul has come in the form of a dog. Mother does not know this.”
That Bhagavan had ceased to identify with his body was clear to me when he and I were walking on the forest path around the mountain. Having stepped on a thorn, I was lagging behind. Bhagavan stopped, came Backto me and removed the thorn. Later, Bhagavan stepped on a big thorn. Lifting his foot, I was astonished to find many thorns sticking out of it; some were old and some were new. I lifted the other foot and found the same. “Which thorns will you remove?” asked Bhagavan with a laugh. Then he crushed the protruding thorn with the foot in which it was embedded and happily continued to walk.
I felt that I was not making much spiritual progress, so I once asked Bhagavan, “How many times will I have to be born to get jnana?” Bhagavan answered, “There are no factors like time and distance. In one hour we dream that many days and years have passed by. Don’t you see in a cinema film mere shadows being transformed into great seas, mountains and buildings. The world is not outside you. The small world that is in the mind appears as a big world outside. The annihilation ofthe mind is jnana!” 1. Refer annexure-I, p.410.