Akhilandamma, born in 1887, was ‘married’ at the age of five. Her husband died two years later. As per the then social custom, ‘remarriage’ not being possible, she decided to devote her life to serving sadhus. In 1903, she visited Sri Ramana on the hill and felt his power. She served food to him for four decades.
In 1903, while wandering near the hill for gathering flowers, I saw many people walking towards the Sadguru Swami Cave. A person from the crowd told me, “There is one Brahmana Swami there who sits motionless.” These words kindled in me a desire to see him. I bought a little sugar candy as a token offering and went to see him. What a sight he was! For the first time I saw the magnetic Lord who draws towards him the minds of those who see him. Even though he was unwashed and covered with dust, his body glowed like gold.
When I went for darshan again, Bhagavan was sitting inside the Vimpaksha Cave. On seeing Bhagavan my mind flowed towards him with uninterrupted, boundless love, but along with this emotion there was a sort of inexpressible regard and fear. It is only natural for people to feel a sense of awe and reverence while they are near Bhagavan. It is also natural for the individual self to subside in his presence. There was a gracious power that prevailed in that holy place. It numbed the mind, the power of speech and the body so effectively that the visitors were automatically silenced. There were no rules about silence, but in that holy presence casual visitors who had come for darshan would automatically remain calm and quiet.
When Bhagavan first moved to the Skandasram, no cooking was done there. Bhagavan and the devotees depended upon the food offerings brought everyday. Kamakshi Ammal and myself often used to take food to the ashram. One day, five or six heads of various maths came unexpectedly to the ashram to have Bhagavan’s darshan. Since we had not known about this in advance, the food was falling short. When it was time to eat, a devotee approached Bhagavan and said, “They are all waiting, may we take food?” Bhagavan who knew about the shortage, replied, “Let us wait a while.” Sometime later, a group of people unexpectedly came, bringing with them big vessels full of food. Bhagavan asked them to first serve the food to everyone who was present. Only then did he stand up to indicate that he was ready to eat.
Once I went to the Skandasram with fruits and milk. But Bhagavan’s mother was unwilling to have the stuff brought by a nonBrahmin. Bhagavan who understood his mother’s mind said to her, “All right, it is better that you go Backto your house in Madurai.” He then ate some of the offering and gave some to his attendant, who returned what remained to me as Bhagavan’s prasad.
One day when I went up the hill with all the required foodstuff to serve a bhiksha, a swami told me, since it was a full moon day, it was an auspicious time to receive upadesa from great souls. I approached Bhagavan, bowed, stood up and said, ” Bhagavan, kindly tell me something.” Bhagavan stared at me and asked, “About what am I to tell you?”I was both puzzled and nonplussed. A mixture of fear and devotion along with an eagerness to hear Bhagavan’s gracious words welled up within me, rendering me incapable of speech. I just stood mutely. Bhagavan understood my predicament. No one can hide anything from him. He can understand the state of mind of anyone who approaches him, merely by looking at him. He looked at me graciously and said, “unnai vidamal iru’, that is, ‘Be without leaving yourself.‘
I could not comprehend the meaning of this high-level upadesa, but as soon as the words came from Bhagavan’s mouth I felt an immense satisfaction and wonderful effulgence in my mind. These gracious words welled up in my mind again and again like the rising of tides.The feeling they produced gave me an indescribable happiness. I stood there delighting myself in the feelings produced by this one phrase. Even today, the sound of that upadesa rings in my ears and bestows immense peace on me.
Though I didn’t understand what Bhagavan had told, I immediately experienced the state that the words were indicating without ever really understanding what they meant. I came to understand through this experience that in Bhagavan’s benign presence a single gracious utterance can produce the fruit and the fulfilment of all spiritual practices such as sravana [hearing], manana [thinking or reflection] and nididhyasa [contemplation or abidance].
In Bhagavan’s last days, while I was staying at my village, I was frequently thinking and worrying about his health. I went to the Ashram but was prevented from entering the gate as thousands were waiting to have his darshan. By Bhagavan’s grace an inmate of the Ashram who knew me somehow came to the place and informed Bhagavan that I had arrived. I was given permission to have darshan.
I tried to suppress my emotion but the feeling that I would soon be losing my one and only God completely destroyed my self-restraint. I cried out to him: “Bhagavan! Bhagavan has decided to give up this body. What can I do?” After I left the room, Bhagavan sent me the following message via the devotee who had opened the door for me: “Why do you feel sorry for this mortal body?” It occurred to me that Bhagavan was consoling me by saying: Don’t feel worry about this body, I am always your saviour!