Sundaram (Sadhu Trivenigiri) was a spiritually-minded person. He came to the Ashram in 1933 and was taken on the staff. He worked for long years in the kitchen.
In 1932, as I stood before the deity of the Subramaniyam temple, the following words flashed into my consciousness: “Here I am God who does not talk. Go to Tiruvannamalai. The Maharshi is a god who talks.” This was how the Maharshi’s grace manifested itself to me. I had not even seen him at that time.
In 1933, after my wife’s death, I gave up my job and came to Sri Ramanasramam. As the sarvadhikari knew my family very well, he immediately engaged me for the Ashram work.
Prior to my arrival, I had been suffering from asthma for many years. It gave me a lot of trouble, but I did not mention it to Bhagavan. Once Bhagavan gave me a pinch of chutney he had prepared and said, “This is medicine for you.” I swallowed the same. Later I realised that I was completely cured of my asthma.
At night, after visitors had left, we would all collect around Bhagavan. We felt like a big family assembled after a day’s work. During those short hours Bhagavan would enquire about our welfare, chat with us, make us laugh and also give us instructions for the next day.
Bhagavan always felt concerned about the welfare of his devotees. One day, for example, when Major Chadwick [No.42] was down with fever, Bhagavan asked, “How is he now?” When I replied that I did not know and had not seen him, he directed me to go and see him. He added, “He left his country and travelled thousands of miles, staying with us and making us his own. Should we not take care of him and look after his needs?”
Once, when I served food to Bhagavan, he asked, “Why did you serve me more than usual? How you dare make distinctions like this?” The people nearby pleaded for me. “No Bhagavan,” they said, “Sundaram did not serve you more. Look, we got as much as you did.” But Bhagavan would not be so easily appeased. “You do not know, the ego is strong in him. His giving preference to me is the working of his ego”, he said.
One morning when I was cutting vegetables along with Bhagavan, he said, “Sundaram! Take this hurricane light and pick up the mangoes that have fallen from the tree.” I said, “Yes”, but continued cutting the vegetables. Bhagavan said, “Sundaram, attend to what ‘I’ said first. It is from me that everything arises. Attend to it first.” I took this as an adesha and upadesa (order and instruction) to make the enquiry ‘Who am I?’ My friends also felt so.
One day the attendant Madhavan was binding a book. A devotee wanted a book from the library. Bhagavan asked Madhavan to get it saying, “You do my work; I will do your work.” And Bhagavan took the book and went on with the binding while Madhavan got the library book.
Once while meditating in the presence of Bhagavan, my mind persisted in wandering. I couldn’t control it. So I gave up meditation and opened my eyes. Bhagavan at once sat up on his couch and said, “Oh! You abandon it thinking it is the swabhava (nature) of the mind to wander. Whatever we practice becomes the swabhava. If control is practised persistently that will become the swabhava!” Yet another upadesa for me.
The injunction against the leftover food from the previous day is very much respected in the higher castes of South India. But Bhagavan insisted that avoidance of waste overruled everything else, and he would never permit God’s gift to be thrown away. As for giving the leftovers to beggars, it was not possible because Bhagavan insisted that beggars be given the same food as everyone else, and not some inferior stuff. Even dogs had to be fed from the common meal. Bhagavan would come to the kitchen in the early hours, see the leftovers from the night before, warm them up, dilute them, and add some more ingredients to make them palatable.
Bhagavan was neither a rebel nor a reformer. He did not discourage people from following their religious customs at home, but in the Ashram he would not take any custom for granted. At Sri Ramanasramam he was both the religion and the custom.