The years 1948-50 saw the evening shadows gathering and closing on the mortal coil of the Master. Advancing age brought a series of mishaps to it – a fall, a nervous hiccup lasting many days, a clinging rheumatism, and lastly a malignant tumour, which inch by inch ate up the flesh of his left arm, poisoned his blood and, finally, rang down the curtain on a life, purer than which there has never been nor will ever be.
24 June 1949
“On the 24th instant at 10-30 a.m. the Master was dozing. A female squirrel leapt on his couch and bit his thumb which he quickly pulled Backand stroked, remarking, ‘I’ll not feed her.’ Other squirrels crowded on his couch and for half an hour he continued to feed them with cashew nuts, one nut at a time to each. Then he turned to us and, pointing to one of them, said: ‘This She-squirrel has been trying to fool me, thinking I do not recognise her, and so shall feed her. Once she comes from this side, once from the other, once from under the couch and once from above it. But I recognise her very well. She shall not have anything,’ and laughed. At that the following vague thought crossed my mind: ‘Where is the Christ’s injunction that if a man slaps you on one cheek offer him the other?’
“Today a squirrel jumped from the window to the couch. The Master looked at it intently. He gave it a nut, then another and addressed it: ‘Now go. Have you come to bite me again?’ I quickly guessed that that was the guilty squirrel of four days ago and wondered how Sri Bhagavan recognised it and relented. Nevertheless, I asked him if my guess was right, and he confirmed it. After a while the same squirrel came Backfor more nuts. Usually the Master continues to feed the animals till of their own accord they cease to come. But to this one he refused to give again and, seeing it persisting, he lifted his fan in threat, which made it disappear at once. Then he sat with a pensive look and a faint smile on his face. After a while he turned to my direction, broadened his smile and softly spoke in Tamil in his usual telegraphic brevity to my neighbour:
‘Even animals understand a rebuke and, if it is repeated a sufficient number of times, they learn to behave. Some of them are more sensible than some others… ‘ This was immediately translated to me. I laughed, frankly admitted the vague thought I had had on the first day, and added that although I had never doubted Sri Bhagavan’s wisdom, that thought needed the explanation, which made the Master nod approvingly.”
15 July 1949
Even in a solemn moment like that, when life hung by the flimsiest thread, Sri Maharshi’s solicitude for the guests and devotees occupied the first place in his mind; for he hardly rested than he called attendant Satyananda, who had supported his hip-joints in his journey to and from the bathroom, and whispered something to him, which was later explained as his declared desire that the dining routine should not be altered, which implied that he would not have his dinner alone in the darshan hall, as he had suspected such a plan was afoot, but as usual in the dining hall with others. The dining hall is situated at a great distance from the darshan hall and its southern entrance, by which the Maharshi usually enters, is preceded by seven steep steps. To go there for dinner would compel Sri Bhagavan not only to make the distance on foot, but also cross the terrible threshold of the hall, as well as climb all the seven steps, which is far more than his state of health would permit. A few of his important disciples went to him one after another and begged of him to consent to dine alone in the darshan hall where he sat, but he refused. Our hearts were in our mouths when the dinner bell rang at 7-30 p.m. and we saw him preparing to get down and walk. Walk he did, and with firm steps too, but in order to make him avoid the southern entrance, he was requested to enter by the northern one, which had only two easy steps, but he turned down the request by moving to the southern door and climbing the steep steps. He tottered for a while and, seeing the attendants ready to hold him, he stopped, turned to them and said: “If you leave me alone, I would walk far steadier,” and entered the dining hall unaided.
14 April 1950
At about 9 p.m., Monsieur Cartier-Brassen, the French photographer, who has been here for about a fortnight with his wife, related an experience of his to me. “It is a most astonishing experience,” he said.
“I was in the open space in front of my house, when my friends drew my attention to the sky, where I saw a vividly-luminous shooting star with a luminous tail, unlike any shooting star I had before seen, coming from the South, moving slowly across the sky and, reaching the top of Arunachala, disappeared behind it. Because of its singularity we all guessed its import and then raced to the Ashram only to find that our premonition has been only too sadly true: the Master had passed into Mahanirvana at that very minute. ” Several other devotees in the Ashram and in the town later told me that they too had seen the tell-tale meteor.
15 April 1950
At 6-30 p.m., the body, which by then had received the homage of not less than 40,000 persons was carried in a decorated palanquin reserved for the Deity of the temple to the samadhi. Here it was placed in the same yoga-asana into a bag made of the finest khaddar, which was then filled with pure camphor and lowered into the small area reserved for it. Then the pit was filled to the brim with camphor, salt, and sacred ashes to protect the body from worms and rapid disintegration, and closed with masonry work.
All the English and Tamil papers which arrived this morning (16th April, 1950) from Madras gave wide publicity in banner headlines to the passing of the Maharshi. They also referred to the meteor which had been seen in the sky all over the State of Madras, hundreds of thousands of square miles, at 8-47 on the night of April 14, by a large number of people in different places and reported to the Press. These eye-witnesses had been struck by its peculiar look and behaviour, which led them to ascribe the strange phenomenon to the passing of a great spiritual soul. Such a mass of evidence speaks for itself, if evidence need be.