Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Prof. N.R. Krishnamurti Iyer

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Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Prof. N.R. Krishnamurti IyerBack


Prof. N.R. Krishnamurti Aiyer (1898-1994) taught physics for 33 years at the American College, Madurai. He was a regular visitor to the Ashram in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. He authored The Essence of Ribhu Gita.

In April 1914, on their way to Tirupati my parents went to see Bhagavan at the Virupaksha Cave. When I made my obeisance to Bhagavan along with everyone else, his benign and divine gaze was fixed upon me, but I paid little attention to him as I ran about the place along with other boys. After my return home a great change came over me. Till then I had never cared to go to any temple, but now I felt dragged, as it were, by some mysterious fascination to the huge and magnificent Mathrubhu-teswara Lingam in the rock temple in my town Tiruchirapalli. Once inside the temple, a great peace overwhelmed me and the joy I felt was indescribable.

In January 1919, when I had an occasion to visit my sister’s house in Tiruvannamalai, I had Bhagavan’s darshan at the Skandasram. This time also, Bhagavan’s gracious look was impressed upon me. Reaching home, when I slept after breakfast, for over two hours I was fully conscious, but at the same time totally unconscious of my body and surroundings. Even after being roused for lunch, I felt that everything around me was like a dream. The people who saw my puzzled expression made fun of me.

In 1923, at the end of the first year of my teaching career, I again visited my sister in Tiruvannamalai and went to the Ashram. At that time I was very sympathetic towards people like Ganapati Muni [No.91], who were working for the political uplift of India. I also felt anger towards people like Bhagavan who were not lifting a linger for the country’s liberation. I was then an agnostic. I said nature could take care of itself. Where is the need for a creator?

At that time, there were no buildings in the Ashram except for a shed covering the mother’s samadhi. I saw Bhagavan seated on a bench under a tree, stroking a dog near him. Among us Brahmins, the dog is an animal which will defile purity. A good part of my respect for the Maharshi was gone. I asked him, Sir, you are sitting like this, what is your next sthiti (move)?

My idea was to elicit from him the reply that there is a soul that survives the dissolution of the body, which later gets unified with God. I wanted to have a verbal fight with him so that I could prove that this was not so. Minutes passed but no reply was forthcoming. I said to myself, “Is this man taking shelter under his dumb-indifferent silence from answering an inconvenient question?” Just then Bhagavan’s ringing voice exploded, “Sthiti, what do you mean by sthiti?^

I was not prepared for the question. I said to myself, “Oho, this man is very dangerous, he is dangerously alive. I have to answer with proper care.” I began to think: If I ask him about the body, it is a useless question; the body will be buried or burnt. Now, if I say that the question is about the state of mind, he will naturally ask me to define mind, for which no answer was forthcoming within me. I landed in a void, and was like a helpless mute. There was a fierce glow in Bhagavan’s eyes that held my own eyes in a tight grip. I lost awareness of both the body and the world. I do not know how long it continued. When I came to myself, I was terribly afraid ofthe Maharshi. In spite of myself, I prostrated and made a headlong flight.

At my next visit, the sarvadhikari of the Ashram invited me to lunch and told me that a few weeks prior to my arrival, my father and mother had come to the Ashram and had given a bhiksha to Bhagavan and the Ashramites. After lunch, he presented me a photo of Bhagavan and two small books – Arunachala Stuti Panchakam and Ramana Stuti Panchakam. When I approached Bhagavan with these gifts, he corrected some printing errors in the two books with his fountain pen, passed his palm over them and gave Backto me with his blessed hands.

After the evening meal was over, I followed Bhagavan on his short stroll and asked, ” Bhagavan, I am doing Rama mantra japa. Is not Arunachala mantra japa superior to this?” “No! No!” said Bhagavan vehemently, “Both are identical. ‘Ra’ means ‘that is’ and ‘ma’ means ‘thou’. ‘A’ in Arunachala means ‘that’, ‘ru’ means ‘thou’ and ‘na’ means ‘art’.”Then he added, “Using your mind as your mouth, let the name Rama revolve continuously like the Vishnu’s chakra (discus) within your mind. Let no other know that you are doing japa.”

Before leaving the Ashram, the sarvadhikari asked me to send him a photograph of Nataraja, the majestic idol in the Meenakshi Temple, in front of whom the boy Ramana stood for long spells of time, shedding copious tears of ecstasy, before he left Madurai for good. He also wanted a photograph of the house where Ramana was born in Tiruchuzhi and of some other places there. These were meant to be placed in the Tamil biography Sri Ramana Vijayam by Suddhananda Bharati [No.101]. I could succeed in implementing the request with the help of P.R.S.Mani, my student and an expert photographer.

Towards the end of 1930, I was bedridden. My pain and suffering was so great that I was seriously contemplating suicide, simply because I could not stand the pain any more. My wife wired to her parents that my life was in danger. The following day I told my wife that I might not live for more than a couple of days.

Scarcely had I spoken these words, Vilachi Mani Aiyer, a boyhood friend of Sri Ramana, who had just returned from Tiruvannamalai and happened to be there, took out Bhagavan’s vibhuti and kumkum prasad.

He placed a dot of kumkum on my forehead and rubbed the vibhuti on my eyebrows. Immediately, a thrill ofjoy shook my frame, infusing me with a feeling of good health. I sat up in my bed and told my wife, “I am quite well, I will not die. Don’t fear.”

The same night my wife’s parents arrived with my cousin Dr. Rajagopal, who took us to his home in Karur and treated me for a month, by which time I was fully restored to health. I then recollected the song I heard at Trichy: Jai Sri Ramana! Victory unto my Lord Ramana, Siva! ‘ My soul sang the same song.

My sixty-six year old father was suffering from both hernia and asthma. These troubles got aggravated due to frequent trips between Madurai and Tiruchuzhi, which were necessary for negotiations needed to acquire the house where Bhagavan was born. After the deal was concluded and the property acquired for Rs.3000, my father along with others involved in the negotiation, returned to Tiruvannamalai, where he got struck with strangulated hernia.

The attack was sudden and severe. It was not possible to take him by car to the Vellore hospital. The resident Ashram doctor Kuppuswami Aiyer, a staunch devotee of Bhagavan, took courage in both hands and improvised an operation table in the local hospital.

Before taking up the operation he came to Bhagavan and prayed to him for success. My father survived the operation which the specialist in Madurai had said earlier would be fatal at that age and condition of health.

When it became clear that the life of my father had been spared, I prostrated before Bhagavan and said, “This one time Bhagavan has worked a miracle and saved my father’s life!” Bhagavan interjected and said, “Why are you saying ‘one time’? Why are you not saying ‘three times’?” How Bhagavan could remember or know about those two earlier occasions when his grace was sought and secured years ago to save my father’s life in similar situations, will always remain a mystery to me.

Prof. Aiyer who in his old age stayed with his son at Tiruvannamalai told the following to V. Ganesan:

In Bhagavan’s daily life one noticed personal cleanliness, tidiness of dress, habitual wearing of vibhuti and kumkum on the forehead; equal sharing of all enjoyment with those around him; strict adherence to a time schedule; performing useful work however ‘low’ it may be; never leaving a work unfinished; the pursuit of perfection in every action; incessant activity except while sleeping or resting after a spell of hard work; never considering oneself superior to others; speaking the truth always, or strict silence if the expression of truth would hurt or lower the reputation of others; perfect self-help; never asking another to do a piece of work which can be done by oneself; taking full responsibility for failure, if any, without shifting the blame on others; accepting success or failure with equanimity; never disturbing the peace of others; leaving the leaf-plate clean after eating; complete non-interference in the affairs of others; never worrying about the future.These are the lessons Sri Ramana taught by example to his devotees.

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