Viswanatha Swami (1904-79), a distant relative of Sri Ramana, was brought up by the Maharshi’s mother. He fully surrendered himself to Sri Ramana in 1923 and till 1950 spent most of his time either with the Maharshi or with Ganapati Muni (no. 91). He was a scholar of Tamil and Sanskrit and translated many Ashram publications into Tamil. He edited The Mountain Path for some time and authored the famous Ramana Ashtotra.
In my first darshan of Bhagavan at the Skandasram the very sight of him thrilled me. Something very subtle, seemingly with its centre in that body, shone forth, without limitation, engulfing everything else. I felt swallowed by it. I stayed for a week with Bhagavan in that atmosphere of utter purity and serenity. I saw in Bhagavan something quite arresting, which clearly distinguished him from all others I had seen. He seemed to live apart from the physical frame, quite detached from it. His look and smile had a remarkable spiritual charm. When he spoke, the words seemed to come out of an abyss. One could see immaculate purity and non-attachment in him and in his movements. I sensed something very lofty and sacred about him. In his vicinity, mind’s distractions were overpowered by an austere and potent calmness. In his presence the unique bliss of peace was directly experienced. This I would call Ramana lahari – ‘the blissful atmosphere of Ramana’. In this ecstasy of grace one loses one’s sense of separate individuality and there remains something grand and all pervading, all devouring.
Some ofthe ten devotees living with Bhagavan at the Skandasram used to sing Tamil songs in praise of Subramaniam.[Son of Lord Siva.] Bhagavan used to keep time by tapping with two small sticks on the two rings ofan iron brazier in front ofhim.While Bhagavan’s hands were tapping, his unfathomable look of grace gave a glimpse of the beyond in silence. It was an unforgettable experience.
One morning, a devotee was singing with great fervour ‘Ramana sadguru, Ramana sadguru, Ramana sadguru rayane. ‘ [Sri Ramana is the true Master and our Lord.] When Bhagavan also joined in the singing, the devotees were amused and began to laugh. Bhagavan then commented, “What is extraordinary about it? Why should one limit Ramana to a form of six feet? Is it not the all-pervading divinity that you adore when you sing ‘Ramana sadguru, Ramana sadguru?“ Why should I not join in the singing?” We instantly felt ourselves in agreement with Bhagavan.
Once when Niranjanananda Swami told Bhagavan that I could recite hymns in Sanskrit, he looked at me expectantly and I had to recite a few verses. When I had finished, Bhagavan gently looked at me and said, “You have learned all this. Not so in my case. Before I came here I knew nothing and had learned nothing. Some mysterious power took possession of me and effected a thorough transformation.”
Once I asked Bhagavan as to how I could rise above my animal existence. He replied with great compassion, “It is only by awakening a power mightier than the senses and the mind that these can be subdued. If you awaken and nurture the growth of that power within you, everything will be conquered. One should sustain the current of meditation uninterruptedly. Moderation in food and similar restraints will be helpful in maintaining the inner poise.” He added, “So long as you identify yourself with the body, you can never escape sex thoughts and distractions.”
Bhagavan was opposed to any sort of waste or extravagance. Once he scolded me for wasting kerosene in lighting the charcoal stove, when the same results could be got with dry twigs and leaves lying around. On another occasion, while visiting Ganapati Muni’s room at Palakottu where I was also staying, Bhagavan saw scraps of paper of about 1″ x 6″ size on the floor, which were leftovers from cutting some sheets of paper to a uniform size. He wanted to stitch these pieces together and make a little notebook of the size of a thumb and use it for writing something on. To save Bhagavan the trouble, I offered to do it myself. Later, he was happy to see 108 verses of the Indra Sahasra Nama Stotra, copied in the tiny notebook. Bhagavan scrutinized not only the contents of the notebook but also its stitching and general appearance, as was his way. He then exclaimed with pleasure, “You have kept your promise and made the best use of the bits of paper.“
V. Mani Iyer, a senior schoolmate of Bhagavan, noted for his physical strength and rough dealing with anybody whom he disliked, was known as ‘Rogue Mani’. He accompanied his mother to Tirupati. She wanted to break her journey at Tiruvannamalai for Bhagavan’s darshan, while going Backhome to Madurai. Mani agreed on the condition that he should be allowed to drag the bogus sadhu by the ear and bring him Backhome.
However, on reaching the Virupaksha Cave, Mani looked and looked at Bhagavan, and got more and more puzzled as he did so. There was no trace of the ordinary boy Venkataraman whom he had known. He saw an effulgent Divine Being seated in front of him, absolutely still and silent. His heart melted for the first time in his life, tears rolled down his cheeks and the hair stood on end. He fell prostrate before Bhagavan and surrendered to him. He became a frequent visitor and a staunch devotee of Bhagavan.
Those who were spiritually evolved had no difficulty in recognising Bhagavan’s state. One such person was Narayana Guru of Kerala. He once visited Bhagavan at the Skandasram. At lunch time Bhagavan invited him to eat with him and other devotees. After reaching Kerala, he wrote five verses in Sanskrit, calling them Nirvritti Panchakam, describing Bhagavan’s way of obtaining the inner felicity and sent them to Bhagavan. In later years, Narayana Guru used to be greatly pleased whenever his disciples visited Bhagavan, and on their return he would listen with delight to details of their visit.