Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Chhaganlal V. Yogi

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Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi – Chhaganlal V. YogiBack


Chhaganlal V. Yogi was a businessman of Bombay who authored Sri Ramana Mahima. He first visited Sri Ramana in 1939.

When I was eighteen, I read a lot of books by Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ramtirtha. These implanted in me the ideal of plain living, high thinking and life dedicated to spiritual matters. At the age of twenty I had the good fortune of contacting Mahatma Gandhi. His ideals won my heart and for several years I faithfully tried to put them into practice. At the age of thirty eight scepticism began to assail me and I began to doubt the ideals of Gandhiji. It was in this period of my life that I heard of Ramana Maharshi.

One day, while travelling as usual on the train to the office, I happened to meet a friend who told me that he recently had been to Sri Ramanasramam. I said, “I have an utter contempt for these so-called saints.” My friend refused to give up. He insisted on impressing on me that Ramana Maharshi was not a ‘so-called’ saint, but a genuine and authentic sage. He gave me a book entitled Sri Maharshi written by Kamath, editor of The Sunday Times in Madras.

I must confess, despite my prejudices, the book evoked in me an interest in the Maharshi and I was sufficiently curious to borrow from a friend his biography Self-Realization by B.V Narasimha Swami. My interest in Sri Ramana began to grow without my being aware of it. Later, I felt compelled to write to Sri Ramanasramam and got all the literature on

the Maharshi that was available in English.

On my first visit to the Ashram, I found Sri Ramana seated on a couch, as quiet and unmoving as a statue. His presence did not seem to emanate anything unusual and I was very disappointed to discover that he displayed no interest in me. I had expected warmth and intimacy, but unfortunately I seemed to be in the presence of someone who lacked both. From morning till evening I sat waiting to catch a glimpse of his grace, of his interest in me, a stranger who had come all the way from Bombay, but I evoked no response. After pinning such high hopes on him, his apparent lack of interest nearly broke my heart. Eventually, I decided to leave the Ashram. My mind, which was deeply tormented, felt that the psychic atmosphere in the hall was stuffy and choking. Unable to bear it any longer, I walked outside to get a breath of fresh air.

A young man called Gopalan came up to me and asked where I had come from. “Bombay”, I replied. He asked me if I had been introduced to the Master and led me to the office and then proceeded with me to the hall where he introduced me to Bhagavan. The Maharshi sent for a copy of the Gujarati translation of the Upadesa Saar am by Kishorelal Mashruwala, and asked me to chant verses from the book. While chanting, I could feel Bhagavan keenly observing me. It seemed that the light of his eyes was suffusing my consciousness. Even without my being aware of it his silent gaze brought about a subtle but definite transformation in me. My erstwhile sadness completely disappeared leaving in my heart an inexplicable emotion ofjoy.

That evening I sat close to Bhagavan in the dining room. In my exalted state the food I ate seemed to have an unusual and unearthly taste. I quite literally felt that I was participating in some heavenly meal in the direct presence of God.

During the three days of my stay in the proximity of the Divine Master, I found my whole outlook entirely changed. After that short period, I could find little evidence of my old self, a self that had been tied down with all kinds of preconceptions and prejudices. I felt that I had lost the chains that bind the eyes of true vision. I became aware that the whole texture of my mind had undergone a change. The divine magician opened up for me a strange new world of illumination, hope and joy. I felt that his presence on earth alone constituted sufficient proof that humanity, suffering and wounded because of its obstinate ignorance, could be uplifted and saved. For the first time I fully understood the significance of darshan.

At one time I felt that my political duty as a Gandhian demanded that I should court arrest on the call of Mahatma Gandhi. But my domestic duties bade me otherwise. I found myself in a dilemma and I could not see the way out. The situation was so unbearable for me that I had to turn to the Master for help and relief. I therefore set out for Tiruvannamalai.

After reaching there I went and sat in the holy presence of the Master. While sitting, I began to wonder how to place the difficulty before him. I decided to pour forth my prayer from the heart with a silent plea for Bhagavan’s help. I began to pray, and while I concentrated on my mental plea, I watched his radiant face and sparkling eyes that were full of love and kindness. And then, astonishingly, something like a miracle began to happen. Bhagavan’s face transformed itself into that of Mahatma Gandhi, while his body remained the same. As I stared at it with awe and wonder, the two faces, those of Bhagavan and Gandhiji began to appear to me alternately in quick succession. I felt my heart filling with joy. Yet, at the same time, I was wondering whether what I saw was real or not.

I turned my eyes away from Bhagavan and looked around me to see if others were seeing what I saw. Seeing no sign of wonder on their faces, I concluded that what I saw was a picture of my own imagination. I closed my eyes and sat quietly for sometime. Then, as I began to look at Bhagavan’s face, the vision immediately reappeared, but this time, in addition to the faces of Bhagavan and Gandhiji, those of Krishna, the Buddha, Kabir, Ramdas and a host of other saints began to show themselves in quick succession. All my doubts vanished and I began to enjoy that grand divine show. The vision lasted about five minutes. My mind dropped all its worries and I found myself able to handover my problem to the capable hands of the Master. Though he spoke no words to me, it came to pass that the problem was solved without infringing either of my two duties. In fact, both duties were fulfilled satisfactorily.

In 1945, I decided to wind up my printing press in Bombay and settle down at Sri Ramanasramam. I had no prearranged plan for closing down my business. I merely relied on Bhagavan. One day, in the early hours of the morning, while I was still in bed and only half awake, I saw a vision in which Bhagavan appeared before me. By his side stood a gentleman whom I recognised as a friend of mine. He had neither been to the Ashram nor had he ever exhibited any faith in Bhagavan. The following conversation took place between Bhagavan and me.

Bhagavan: You want to sell your press, don’t you?

Me: Yes Bhagavan, but I must find a buyer.

Bhagavan: Showing my friend standing by my side – ‘Here is the buyer. He will buy your press, so sell it to him.’

Me: Since Bhagavan has been kind enough to show me the buyer; may he also favour me by stating the price at which I should execute the sale? Bhagavan then showed me a five-digit figure on the opposite wall shining as a neon sign. The amount indicated was reasonable.

Bhagavan and my friend then disappeared and the vision ended. By itself the vision was astonishing enough, but there was more to come. When I entered the press that day at 11 a.m., my friend from the vision was waiting for me. Of course, he had come to see me about some other work and had no idea that he had been singled out as a prospective buyer. Feeling that Bhagavan had sent him to me, I told him about the vision I had a few hours before. He listened to me very attentively.

When I had finished my tale, he simply commented, “I will buy your press at the price indicated by your guru.” There was no limit to my joy. My desire to sell was fulfilled by his grace and the sale was completed in less than a minute.

My original plan was to dispose of my printing press in Bombay and move to Sri Ramanasramam. However, when the devotees heard what I was planning to do, it was suggested to me that I could be of more use to the Ashram in Bangalore. I was asked to start a printing press there that could execute all printing work of the Ashram. I agreed to the idea and soon found myself in Bangalore, looking for suitable premises. I began to suspect that Bhagavan had assisted the sale of my original press because he had work for me to do in Bangalore.

Though a stranger in the city, I could soon locate an old press that had been lying idle for some months. It was for sale. I saw its proprietor and told him why I wished to buy the press. He agreed to sell but we were unable to finalise the price. To break the deadlock, I proposed that both of us would visit the Ashram and talk about the deal after Bhagavan’s darshan. I thought that since Bhagavan wanted me to do his work in Bangalore his darshan might help to lubricate the wheels of the transaction.

The owner having agreed to the idea, we set off together for the Ashram. On our arrival, I took him into the holy presence of Bhagavan and informed him that I proposed to buy the press of the gentleman who was accompanying me, and that I planned to do all the Ashram’s printing work there. Bhagavan did not say anything; he nodded his head.

Within a few hours of having had Bhagavan’s darshan, there was a wonderful change in the attitude of the owner of the press. He approached me and agreed to sell his press for whatever price I was willing to pay for it. When he had agreed to come and see Bhagavan with me he had made a stipulation that no business talk should take place at the Ashram. However, after seeing Bhagavan, he proposed that we settle our business immediately. We drafted and signed a sale agreement in the Ashram itself, and within a week of our visit the press came into my possession.

The new firm was named ‘Aruna Press’ by Bhagavan himself. The press needed a lot of attention to get it functioning again. And by Bhagavan’s grace I was soon able to take up the Ashram work as assigned to me.

In 1946, the devotees proposed to bring out the Golden Jubilee Souvenir to mark fifty years of Bhagavan’s arrival at Arunachala. Its printing was entrusted to my press. Up till then, the press had only printed small books for the Ashram. Since this was going to be a big volume of several hundred pages, I was reluctant to accept the job because I felt I would not have time to complete the job in time for the jubilee celebrations on 1st September. However, eventually I accepted the job.

At first, my fears appeared to be justified. Up till ten days before the target date, I could manage to print only a small part of the book. I lost courage, rushed to the Ashram, prostrated before Bhagavan and told him, “Unless the help of some other press is taken, the volume will not come out on the first of September.” I then sat before him, enjoying his darshan, waiting for his reply. After a few moments of silence he said in a low melodious tone, “Do your work.

These three simple words had a magical effect on me. They fired me with fresh vim and vigour, and there arose in my heart a strong belief that the volume would surely be out on the scheduled date. I had received the order from my Master; I had simply to obey and ‘do my work’. I had faith that other details would be looked after by Bhagavan.

I returned to Bangalore and told the story of my encounter to my co-workers. All of them accepted Bhagavan’s order in the same spirit as I had done. For the next few days all of us worked day and night with full faith, zeal and enthusiasm. The amount of work turned out in those few days was, in retrospect, simply astonishing. When only three days were left for the deadline, a party of about ten devotees came to my house on its way to the Ashram. They were going to Tiruvannamalai to attend the Golden Jubilee Celebrations.Three of them turned out to be expert bookbinders. I immediately enlisted their help and managed to complete the work of the Souvenir a day before the deadline.

Between 1945 and 1947, the Aruna Press printed all publications of Sri Ramanasramam. The work was complex and I often found myself having to argue with the person at the Ashram, who had been put in charge of the publications. The tension between us increased to the point where both of us decided to go to Bhagavan to get our differences resolved.

Bhagavan’s rest interval between noon and 2.30 p.m. was chosen for the meeting because we wanted to be alone with him. We went to the hall and waited for him to return from lunch. He saw both of us waiting for him. Sensing that we had some business to discuss, he took his seat. Both of us then placed our cases before him. He quietly listened and gave his verdict in the language of silence. Smiling with great charm he maintained complete silence both during and after the presentation of the arguments. The judgement was the best possible for both of us.

Bhagavan’s silence healed the breach. Emerging from the hall both of us had a spontaneous impulse to embrace each other. In those few minutes our hearts had changed. We separated with the resolve to bury the past and to treat each other with love and friendship.The silken tie with which Bhagavan bound us on that day never snapped again.

Bhagavan’s language was that of silence. Once a Collector and a Deputy Collector came for his darshan.The Collector narrated at length the sadhanas he had done and all the spiritual literature he had read. After him the Deputy Collector told his equally long story. Bhagavan continued to remain in silence even after the speeches were over. The Collector said in an aggrieved voice, “We have been speaking for a long time. Please tell us something. Anything, however brief, will do.

Bhagavan spoke saying, “All this time I have been speaking to you, in my own language. What can I do if you won’t listen to it?”The Collector, an intelligent man, caught the meaning of Bhagavan’s cryptic reply. Suddenly overpowered by devotion, he fell at his feet. Both the visitors sat before Bhagavan in silent meditation. They got the peace they were looking for and departed satisfied.

Bhagavan used to say, “The state that is beyond speech and thought is called mauna. Silence is eternal speech. It is the perpetual flow of language; it is the supreme language.

Bhagavan was undoubtedly one of those rare mahatmas who had the power to banish the suffering through his presence, merely through giving darshan.

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