Natesa Iyer moved from Chidambaram to Tiruvannamalai and found employment as a cook at the Ashram. Though Iyer has not left any account of his stay and work with the Maharshi, David Godman has collected information from devotees who knew him well.
When Natesa Iyer felt an urge to renounce the world, he left his wife and daughter and came to Tiruvannamalai, where he came under Bhagavan’s spell. When he started his job in the kitchen, most of the cooking was done by a group of Brahmin widows, who made him work very hard. Once he said laughingly that he ran away from one bossy woman and ended up working under five.
At one point when he got tired of the way he was being treated in the kitchen, he resolved to leave the Ashram without telling anyone. On the way Backto his home he reached Villupuram, about 40 miles from Tiruvannamalai.There he put vibhuti on his forehead after the bath, closed the eyes and as he was saying a prayer to Bhagavan, he felt Bhagavan himself standing in front of him. “How did you get here?” asked Iyer in amazement. Bhagavan smiled and replied, “How far have you gone away from me.” Iyer, dissolved in tears, was unable to reply.
The figure of Bhagavan began to walk towards Tiruvannamalai. Iyer had no hesitation in following him. The figure eventually disappeared, but Iyer felt that Bhagavan was always ahead of him and he reached the Ashram. When he entered the hall and prostrated, Bhagavan repeated the words, “How far have you gone away from me.” Iyer broke down and cried. He went Backto the kitchen and resumed his work.
This incident initiated a process ofsurrender in Iyer that culminated in the understanding that Bhagavan was not the body that everyone saw moving about the Ashram. He once said, “Bhagavan is not something or someone we can fathom with our minds. We have to admit our ignorance and our inability to say anything about him that is true. I cannot tell anything about Bhagavan because the real Bhagavan cannot be explained in words. It is a sweet taste that you can only know by tasting it yourself.“
He loved to narrate his experience of the operation performed on Bhagavan, when he was his attendant. In his words: “Bhagavan’s behaviour throughout the operation showed very clearly that the body was just something that he was wearing. The flesh was being cut, blood was flowing, and I could see the radium needles that had been inserted into the flesh around the cancerous growth. Bhagavan was fully conscious but utterly indifferent to the procedures that were being carried out on his arm. We were all consumed by the power of Bhagavan’s silence. Even the doctors were sucked into it. When the operation had been completed, the doctors spontaneously prostrated to Bhagavan. One ofthem said, I have operated on many people, but I have never had an experience like this.There was peace in the room that I have never felt anywhere else. I cannot describe what it was like except to say that it was unlike anything I have ever experienced before.“
V Ganesan, a grandson of Bhagavan‘s brother, records:
A few years after Bhagavan passed away, as I approached the Ashram gate I was surprised to see Natesa Iyer seated on the steps of a temple close to the Ashram. On enquiry he said, “The Ashram management had asked me to leave. I have no other place to go. This is my sadguru‘s Ashram. I have decided to sit here because this is the closest I can get to the Ashram.” Annoyed that he had been treated in this way, I went straight to my father, the Ashram president. But he refused to take him back.
I was very agitated and went to see Muruganar [No.53], who lived in a small cottage outside the Ashram. With tears in my eyes I told him what has happened. Muruganar gave me a mischievous smile and asked, “Why are you telling me about this? You could have gone directly to Bhagavan and told him about the problem. Will he not listen to you if you go to his samadhi?“ I went to the shrine and shouted as loudly as I could: “Bhagavan! Injustice has been done to Natesa Iyer! My heart aches! Please allow him to come Backto his job.” Fortunately, no one was there to wintess my strange outbrust. I prostrated and left for giri pradakshina, confident that Bhagavan would take care of the problem.
The following morning, when I went to the Ashram I saw Iyer working at his usual place in the kitchen. When asked he told me, “When the president was walking home last night, he stopped in front of the temple and requested me to come Backto the Ashram and take up the old job again.“
Regarding Iyer‘s passing away, Bhupati Narayana Raju wrote in September 1983 issue of Arunachala Ramana:
Natesa Iyer knew in advance that he was to pass away. “Raju”, he said to me in high spirits, ” Bhagavan is calling me. I am going in ten days.” The next time I saw him, his spirits were still high: “Raju, only five more days, I am going in five days.” His physical condition was deteriorating, but he was still full of energy. Some of the people there said, “Madness has got into his head.” I knew something strange was going on. He became very weak and was unable to take even liquid food. On the tenth day he lost consciousness, but his face suddenly became very bright. In a spirited tone he enquired, “Has Bhagavan come? I am coming.” These were the last words that came from his lips.