Letters From Ramanashram – HELPER OF THE HELPLESS

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Letters From Ramanashram – HELPER OF THE HELPLESSBack


24th May, 1949

You remember, till 1943, in the old hall there used to be a door on the southern side opposite to where Bhagavan used to sit on the sofa and a window in the southern wall which is now converted into a door. Devotees used to enter by the southern door, have a Darsan of Bhagavan who is the incarnation of Dakshinamurthy and go out by the northern door. Some ladies used to sit on the southern side opposite to Bhagavan. As time passed, the number of visitors increased and ladies with their children began sitting there. The children naturally began to create some nuisance. Besides that, from 1943 onwards, the number of visitors of all types increased still more. Moreover, some poor ladies were coming with their children to prostrate and the children were making water there itself. The mothers do not get even a cloth to wipe it out; and even if a cloth was given, some of the modern ladies would not take the trouble to clean the place. Therefore, Bhagavan’s attendants had to clean it up. They were tired and vexed at this and thought of preventing such uncivilised people from coming into the hall. Bhagavan, however, would not, under any circumstances, agree to it. Hence, they began thinking of preventing ladies from sitting in the hall and making arrangements for their sitting in the verandah only. I came to know of it indirectly and was very much grieved. I told them, “Just because one or two people behave in an uncivilised manner, why do you intend to penalise all ladies by preventing them from sitting inside? We trusted Bhagavan and have come here from long distances. Please do not penalise all of us. I will clean that place whenever necessary.” From that time I began looking after that work. Even so, they were not satisfied. At last, one day, they went to Bhagavan and told him that they would make seating arrangements for ladies outside. Bhagavan thereupon asked why men should sit in the hall if women could not sit there. The attendants stated the difficulties they were experiencing in looking after the ladies that come and go. Bhagavan said, “What work is there in the hall even for Bhagavan? It will be all right if he sits under the almond tree, which is opposite. There will then be no trouble or worry for anybody, whatever the children may do.” When he said that, they gave up all their attempts to isolate the ladies. Instead, the window on one side was replaced by the door on the other side and vice-versa. After that, the ladies got their seating place opposite to Bhagavan’s feet.

A similar incident happened in 1946 when I was appointed as a volunteer for ladies during the Brahmotsavam. I have already written to you that Bhagavan changed his seat to the Golden Jubilee Hall immediately it was ready, that is, on the third day of the festival. He did not thereafter come Backto the hall even during the rest period in the afternoons. There was not even a curtain around the sofa. Only a rope was tied to prevent people from the villages crowding around him in the afternoons. The people used to wander about the town and so when they came to Bhagavan’s presence very much tired, some used to squat on the floors with legs outstretched; some used to discuss their affairs in loud voices and some used to lie down and snore. That used to happen between 12 noon and 2 p.m. Mothers used to sleep while breast-feeding the children and the other children used to wander and play about everywhere. When attempts were made to send such people away, it seems Bhagavan said, “Poor people! They must have wandered about a good deal. They are now taking some rest. How could you drive them away? Let them stay on.”

I went there soon after it was 2 p.m. By that time, those people were leaving. Krishnaswami and others had to clean the places themselves. Unable to put up with that nuisance any longer, Krishnaswami was requesting Bhagavan to sit in the hall only. Bhagavan did not agree.

Krishnaswami: “Who will tidy up the nuisance committed by the children?”

Bhagavan: “It should be all right if their mothers are asked to clean it up themselves and are requested to be careful thereafter.”

Krishnaswami: “Who is there to tell them all that? If it were the Congress, they have women volunteers for looking after the women visitors.”

Bhagavan (looking at me with a smile): “There she is. We have a volunteer. Why do you say we have none?”

I: (understanding Bhagavan’s instructions): “Will they care to listen to me?”

Bhagavan (cooly): “Why not? Outsiders will certainly carry out your instructions.”

I: “Then it is all right. I shall certainly tell them.”

Bhagavan: “Poor people! They come here only to see Swami; and they get all the required conveniences here.”

In accordance with Bhagavan’s orders I looked after the work from that day. That arrangement was found very convenient, and so the office people considered the matter and confirmed me in that work. Bhagavan wanted to give Darshan to poor people in that way during those ten days and he sat there too, with kind solicitude for them. I therefore felt that I should also do that much of service to them.

As you know, during the time of the Jay anti, Mahapuja and other celebrations, Bhagavan does not get up for his meals unless and until the feeding of the poor starts and is halffinished. It seems in the past, during such festive occasions, Bhagavan did not take his food except with the last batch. It is only recently, on representations made by devotees, that Bhagavan has been taking food after the feeding of the poor was half-way through. Daily, before the time for the mid-day meal, and before striking the gong, rice was mixed with all the other preparations, made into balls and was sent out for distribution to the poor. That custom prevailed for a long time. Within recent times, however, it so happened that the distribution was done either while meals were being taken or soon after that. One day,

Bhagavan saw a poor man struggling under a tree as he could not get his share of the food. Next day, when the gong was struck, Bhagavan got up and went to the tree where the poor people had gathered, stood there and said, “If you do not give them food first, I will not come to the dining hall at all. I will stand under the tree along with these people, stretch out my hands for food like them, and when I am given a ball of food, I will eat it, go straight to the hall and sit there.” From that day onwards, it is only after food is sent to the poor, they strike the gong in the dining hall.

You know what happened one day in February 1947? A poor man came into the hall and stood opposite to Bhagavan’s sofa. As Bhagavan was busy writing something, he did not notice him. The attendants asked the poor man to go out. He did not go. “If you do not go away, why not sit?” they said. He did not move. Bhagavan lifted his head and looked at him questioningly. The poor man said with great eagerness, “Swami, I do not want anything. My stomach is burning with hunger. Please arrange to give me one handful of rice to satisfy this great hunger.” Bhagavan looked at his attendants indicating his intentions. “For this small thing, should you ask Bhagavan? Come, let us go,” said one of the attendants and took the poor man towards the kitchen. After they left, Bhagavan looked at all those in the hall and said, “Do you see that? As he is a very poor man, he has no desires except one and that is to fill his stomach with food as it is burning with hunger. With that, he will be satisfied and will go. He goes and lies down under some tree and sleeps happily. Where do we have the satisfaction that he has? We have any number of desires. If one desire is satisfied another one comes up. Hence where is the chance for our desires to be satisfied?”

Is it not clear from this that in Bhagavan’s presence, there is a shelter for the weak, the helpless and the poor at all times?

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