Manavasi V. Ramaswami Iyer was Supervisor, Public Works Dept., Tiruvannamalai in 1908. The following is a brief extract from his diary:
My soul was stirred and I appealed to him, “Sir, Jesus and other great souls came into the world to redeem sinners. Is there any hope for me?” The Swami said (in English) – “There is hope. Yes, there is hope.” These are the very words and the following composition was born:
“Thou art my sole refuge; I have naught else to turn to. Oh Sweet and Fragrant Bouquet of Flowers, charming to the bees of the devotees swarming to thy feet.”
From that time I began to frequent the Swami. It became a habit with me to sleep on the Hill every night, when at headquarters. Once I found him sitting calm. When after half an hour or so he saw me, a burning current entered my body. Previous to this, when sitting under a tamarind tree, something entered into me which I could not then explain. Years later, it was found that the mind had entered inside. Then I felt something else entering my body, which was very pleasing.
I was all along a dyspeptic and could neither digest food nor sleep properly. I was worrying, and the Swami asked me about it. I told him about my health. Once a lady devotee brought in cakes and food for a feast. I was living on kanji (gruel). Many had invited me but I always declined, saying, ‘I cannot digest’. But the Swami pressed me, and so I had a good feast of very hard and rich food. That night it was so very strange, I slept profoundly. This was a great impetus to me to rely on the Swami more fully. My people, who were averse to my going to him, began to send my food to be eaten in his presence, as I was getting cured.
The mere look of the Swami stirred the soul. I have heard people being blessed by the guru holding his palm on the head of the disciple; but his look is more powerful. The Swami’s instruction is: Do not forget the Self; all misery is due to forgetting the Self.
I was transferred to Berhampur in Orissa. Once many sores came on my feet and did not respond to any treatment. One morning two visitors came from Tiruvannamalai. They said they were on a pilgrimage to the North and that Bhagavan had specially asked them to look me up. Seeing my predicament they prescribed some simple home remedies which effected a miraculous cure. Surely they were the messengers of the compassionate Bhagavan. Spontaneously, I composed a song in his praise – Saranagati – ‘My Refuge’.