M. Sivaprakasam Pillai (1875-1948), a graduate in philosophy, an officer in the Revenue Dept. of the South Arcot Collectorate, first met Sri Ramana in 1902. He is best remembered for his role in getting Sri Ramana write down his teachings on Self-enquiry, later published as W^o am I? Pillai’s experiences and feelings about the Maharshi in his verse biography Sri Ramana Charita Ahaval, published in 1923, are sampled below in prose form.
Even though the people who approach you with restless and tired minds are sinners without devotion, like a mother who comforts her child on seeing its suffering, you melt with love, comfort their disconsolate minds with eyes full of compassion.You become the father and mother of all those who approach you. You give them food, generate knowledge in them and in this way destroy their misery.
With kind words you said, “The meaning of the word ‘I’ is the one reality that exists as supreme bliss, as knowledge. It is indestructible, and although it is within this fleshly body, it is still different from it. If you desire to know this supreme essence, you must first get rid of the attachment that takes the body as ‘I’ and then enquire, Who am I? If one repeatedly dives within [like the pearl diver searching for the pearl] one can know oneself. This Self-knowledge is liberation.“
I had a vision while sitting before you [on May 5, 1913]. All around you I saw an incomparable effulgence like the splendour of many full moons. Your divine body shone with light of the sun, belittling the lustre of shining gold. Your beautiful eyes were shedding divine grace. In you was the majesty of the Lord of Lords, along with the power of giving bountifully. A little later I saw your whole body smeared with white, bright, sacred ash. My stone-like heart melted and became like water. I saw these visions, but those near me did not see them. I did not ask you about them, nor did you speak to me about them. From the day I realised that you are my Lord, and all the dangers and difficulties I encountered disappeared by your grace like mist disappearing before the sun.
The Supreme Lord has assumed a human body as an act of grace and resides at Arunachala under the name Ramana. Ramanadeva, if people in the world say that you too are a human being like us, that is the same as describing dense, rain-filled clouds as mere smoke cloud.1
Is it possible for my one mouth to describe your glories? No one is capable of describing your glories unless you yourself reveal them through your grace. You have raised me as your devotee. Somehow, please do not throw me away on account of my unworthiness. Ramanadeva, kindly make me submissive to you.
Ramana Sadguru, Supreme Self! Like a deer trapped in a net, not knowing the way to escape, I fall at your feet again, saying, “Your feet alone are my refuge.” By answering, “There is no need to get agitated,” you freed me from fear and saved me. In this way you became my Lord, my father and my mother.
About Pillai, Michael James says:
In his poems he repeatedly prays for the Grace of Bhagavan expressing his own inability to follow the upadesa given by Him. When a devotee asked Sri Bhagavan, “Sivaprakasam Pillai, who is such an ardent devotee and a long-standing disciple, has written that Bhagavan’s instructions could not be carried out by him effectively in practice, what would be the lot of others then?“
Bhagavan replied, “Adi Sankara also says similar things when he composes songs in praise of any deity. How else can they praise God? If one adopts the jivabhava (the attitude of being an individual soul) and praises God, one cannot but sing of the limitations and shortcomings of one’s individual existence.”2 This can be seen from the hymns sung by Bhagavan himself in praise of Arunachala.3
On Pillai’s death, a telegram was sent to Bhagavan conveying the news. After seeing the telegram Bhagavan said in Tamil, “Siva prakasam Sivaprakasamanar”, that is, Sivaprakasam has become Siva-Prakasam, the light of Siva.
1. A rain cloud and smoke cloud may look similar, but only the rain cloud can give rain.
2. Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Talk no. 630.
3. A 108-verse poem addressed to the mountain Arunachala. For details refer Glossary / Books, p. 425.