Thursday, 31 December 2009

"The Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi I Knew" By Krishna Bhikshu

Sri Krishna Bikshu, Voruganti Venkatakrishnaiah (1904-1981), was a lifelong bachelor who held a degree in law, a profession that he scarcely practiced, however, preferring a life dedicated to spiritual pursuits.

A man of sharp intellect and prodigious learning, Sri Krishna Bikshu authored several works besides the preceding Ramana Yoga Sutras. His published works were "Sukti Sudha" (Supplement to Forty Verses), a summary of "Ramana Lahari" and "Tripura Rahasya" all in Telugu, and "Sri Ramana Gita" (5th edition) in English are among those that merit special mention. He wrote "Sri Ramana Leela", the Telegu biography of Sri Bhagavan, in the immediate presence of Bhagavan who went through every page of it. To our knowledge his magnum opus, "Anasuya Ramayana", a complete and faithful translation in Telugu of Valmiki's Ramayana is yet unpublished.

Even as a teenager, Sri Krishna Bikshu made a deep study of Vedantic literature. In 1929, he came into contact with Sri Kavyakanta Ganapati Muni and was won over by the Muni's great intellectual power and spiritual radiance. That led him on to Sri Kavyakanta's guru, Sri Ramana Bhagavan, whom he first visited on May 17th, 1929. From 1931 on, Sri Krishna Bikshu committed himself solely to Sri Bhagavan and the practice of his teachings.

In 1945, when Sri Krishna Bikshu's mother died at Nellore, on the same day that Echammal died at Tiruvannamalai, Sri Bhagavan observed, "Poor Krishnaiah, he lost both his mothers on the same day!" Krishna Bhikshu reached his Master's Feet in 1981 on the very day and month of Sri Bhagavan's birth in 1879! Just before his death at 6.05 a.m., December 30th, 1981, Sri Krishna Bhikshu joined his brother Dr.O.Ramachandraiah in chanting Arunachala Siva from 3.40 to 5.20 a.m.

Krishna Bhikshu was a man of insatiable curiosity, keen intellect, enthusiasm and energy. He was a precocious youth whose early studies created a distaste for religious literature. This lasted until he came under the powerful influence of Ganapati Muni, who brought him to the Maharshi in 1929. He was enchanted by the holy presence of the sage, but still wandered about for some years exploring the different spiritual traditions and teachers of the time. As the result of his wide study and long practice, Krishna Bhikshu became convinced of the truths taught and lived by Sri Ramana Maharshi and surrendered to him whole-heartedly.

He authored several important works in Telugu, one being Sri Ramana Leela, the most comprehensive biography of the Maharshi. Amidst the chanting of Arunachala Siva, Krishna Bhikshu breathed his last on December 30, 1981.

OUR FAMILY was in some way or other always associated with religion and spiritual searching. Brahmarsi Chivukula Venkata Sastri, the husband of my paternal aunt, had asked some of the questions recorded in the Ramana Gita. When I was a child I often used to go to his house and there I saw for the first time the photo of Bhagavan Ramana and read Ramana Gita and other early brochures.

I went to Arunachala for the first time with Sri Rami Reddi. We had our food in the town and then went to the Ashrama. In those days there was very little there - a hut for Bhagavan and another over his mother's samadhi (place of burial). Bhagavan had just finished his food and was washing his hands. He looked at us intently. "Did you have your food?" He asked. "Yes, we had it in town." "You could have had it here," he replied.

I stayed with him for three days. He made a great impression on me. I considered him to be a real Mahatma, although his ways were very simple. Most of the cooking was done by him in those days. The Ashrama lived from hand to mouth and usually only rice and vegetable soup were prepared. When I was about to leave, I asked Bhagavan: "Bhagavan, kindly show me a good path." "What are you doing now?" he asked. "When I am in the right mood, I sing the songs of Tyagaraja and I recite the holy Gayatri. I was also doing some pranayama but these breathing exercises have upset my health." "You had better stop them. But never give up the Advaita Dristhi (non dual vision)." At that time I could not understand his words.

I went to Benares for a month, returned to Pondicherry and spent five months there. Wherever I would go people would find some fault or other with me: "You are too weak, not fit for yoga, you do not know how to concentrate, you cannot hold your breath, you are unable to fast, you need too much sleep, you cannot keep vigils, you must surrender all your property . . ." Only Bhagavan asked for nothing, found fault with nothing. As a matter of truth, there was nothing in me that entitled me to his grace. But it did not matter with Bhagavan. He wanted me, not my goodness. It was enough to tell him "I am yours", and for him to do the rest. In that way he was unsurpassed. The strange people he gathered around him! But those who gave themselves to him and trusted him and did his bidding were overwhelmed by his immense solicitude and kindness.

In 1930 I visited Ramanasramam for the second time, and stayed a month. Our life was very simple at that time. I would get up early each morning, have my bath near the well at Palitirtham, prepare sacramental food on a small stove and start worshipping the Lingam over Bhagavan's mother's samadhi. Chinnaswami helped in the chanting. Bhagavan would make himself generally useful. He would talk quite freely with us every night after food. They would ply him with questions on philosophy and metaphysics. In the evening he would sit on a wooden cot near the well and gaze at Arunachala in deep silence. His face would glow with an inner radiance which would appear to increase with the deepening darkness. We were sitting all around him, either silently, or singing some song. Alamelamma would sometimes sing from Tiruppughazh. The silence and peace at those hours was quite remarkable.

At night after dinner all the inmates of the Ashrama would collect around Bhagavan, and then he was our own, telling stories, answering questions, dispelling doubts, laughing and joking. We never knew how late it was until Madhavaswami would go behind Bhagavan's back and give us signs that it was time to allow Bhagavan some rest.

B. V. Narasimhaswami took up in those days the task of writing a book on Bhagavan's life and was collecting materials for his work from devotees. The first draft of the book was ready and the author gave it to me to read. The idea came to me that a similar book should be written in Telugu. I got Bhagavan's permission and, using Narasimhaswami's manuscript for an outline, got the Telugu version written within a month.

After that, whenever there was some court holiday and I had enough money for a railway ticket, I would come down to Ramanasramam. Everybody, including Bhagavan, used to say: "Krishnayya has come," and there was always a warm welcome for me.

I asked him once: "You told me to repeat the Gayatri. It is too long. Also, I am expected to know its meaning and to meditate on it.'' "Who asked you to bother about the meaning and all that? I have only asked you to see who is repeating the Gayatri, or who is the japi," was his kind reply.

On the other hand he did not limit his teaching to the one question "Who am I ?" He invariably adjusted his advice to the needs of the devotee. He would say: "Sooner or later the question 'Who am I?' will have to be faced. All that leads to this question is good. By itself nothing else is fully effective, for Self-knowledge comes only through self-enquiry. But other methods purify the mind and help it to see its own limits. When the mind comes to the end of its resources and stands baffled before the unanswerable question, then a Higher Power takes charge of the mind and the Self stands revealed, the Real, the Wonderful."

Once an old woman came to the Ashrama. She always carried with her a framed picture of Bhagavan Narayana and she would worship it on every occasion.

She asked Bhagavan whether she was right in doing so. Bhagavan replied:

"Without name and form, on what is one to concentrate? What you are doing with your heart and soul is just right for you."

One night there were only one or two persons in the hall. Madhavaswami was massaging Bhagavan's legs. A gentleman from Kakinada asked Bhagavan's permission to massage his legs. Bhagavan did not reply. The man repeated his request, saying: "At home I am daily praying to Bhagavan and now I have a chance to serve him." Suddenly Bhagavan thundered: "You had all the chances of serving me at home. Why did you come here?" The man became quite frightened and could not speak. Thus Bhagavan taught us not to make a show of our devotion.

Nobody could guess about the way Bhagavan would meet people. The high and mighty of the land would not get even a blank look, while some insignificant looking wanderer would become the object of his concentrated attention for hours and days. On the other hand eminent people would sometimes be taken up by him and given the immense blessing of being the centre of his interest. Once Pranavananda Swami came to the Ashrama. He was utterly exhausted. He sat on the steps of the temple and could not move any further. Bhagavan was told about it. He came out at once, sat at the feet of Pranavananda Swami and started rubbing his legs, saying: "You had a long way to walk, Grandpa. Your legs must be paining you very much." The old swami protested in vain; Bhagavan had his way and massaged the swami's feet.

At food time Bhagavan would ask to be served very little and he would carefully clear the plate of the last grain of food before getting up. Although he never asked us to do the same, I asked him: "If we clear our dining leaves so scrupulously, the dogs, cats, monkeys, rats and the ants will starve." Bhagavan answered: "Well, if you are so compassionate, why not feed the animals before taking food yourselves? Do you think they relish your scrappings?"

Once a visitor said: "I have been coming to you, Swami, many times, hoping that something will happen and I shall be changed. So far I do not see any change in me. I am as I was: a weakling of a man, an inveterate sinner." And he started weeping piteously. "On this road there are no milestones," replied Bhagavan. "How can you know which direction you are going ? Why don't you do what the first-class railway passenger does? He tells the guard his destination, locks the doors and goes to sleep. The rest is done by the guard, If you could trust your guru as much as you trust the railway guard, it would be quite enough to make you reach your destination. Your business is to shut the door and windows and sleep. The guard will wake you up at your destination."

One Rama Rao, an advocate in Nellore, was requested many times by his friends to come with them to Ramanasramam. Invariably he would answer: "I shall go when Bhagavan calls me.'' Once when he was praying Bhagavan appeared to him and asked: "Why have you not come?" Rama Rao immediately left for Tiruvannamalai. Before reaching the Ashrama he had a dream in which a unique Chakra (symbolic drawing) appeared before him. He told the dream to Bhagavan, described the Chakra and asked who could help him in having one drawn correctly. Bhagavan gave him all the necessary information. When the Chakra was ready, Bhagavan examined it carefully and gave it to Rama Rao, telling him to use it in his worship.

A widow arrived one day, entered the Hall and bowed to Bhagavan. He looked at her closely and started laughing. "Oh, it is you.'' he said. The woman got confused, covered her face with her white widow's sari and hid herself in a corner. Bhagavan continued with a broad smile: "When I was a boy her people were our neighbours and she was their little girl. It was agreed between our parents that she would be my wife in due course. I was very fond of helping my mother in the kitchen and her mother used to grumble that she would never marry her daughter to a fellow who likes to spend his day near the stove, like a woman. Anyhow I was not fated to marry. But had I married her, what would have been my fate!" Everybody had a good laugh at Bhagavan's narrow escape.

Once I said to Bhagavan: "Bhagavan, formerly, whenever I thought of you, your form would appear before my eyes. But now it does not happen. What am I to do?" "You can remember my name and repeat it. Name is superior to form. But in the course of time even the name will disappear. Till then repeat the name," advised Bhagavan.

An inmate of the Ashrama who had been serving Bhagavan for many years started visiting a certain woman in the town. Her relatives came to know of it and decided to catch and kill the man. One night they caught him at her house, bound him hand and foot and locked him up in a room, postponing the cutting of his throat until they had found a safe way of disposing of the body. Our man managed to escape and came running to the Ashrama, pursued by his enemies. When he entered the gate they gave up the chase. He entered the Hall trembling and fell on the ground shouting: "Save me, save me.'' Bhagavan ordered the doors to be shut and said: "Don't fear, tell me what happened." After having been told everything, he looked at the culprit with understanding and pity and said reassuringly: "Don't fear any more. Go and sleep." From the next day the man was at his work and Bhagavan would not mention the matter at all. Everybody in the town came to know what happened. The Ashrama people requested Bhagavan to send the man away, for his presence would tarnish the good name of the Ashrama. Bhagavan called the man and told him in front of everybody: "You have done some wrong, but you were too foolish to keep it secret. Others do worse things, but they take care not to be caught. Now, the people who were not caught want you to leave the Ashrama because you were caught. They will make your life miserable. You had better stay outside for some time, until things settle down." The man stayed with some devotees outside the Ashrama and came back after a few months.

When people would complain to Bhagavan about some mischief or other done in the Ashrama, Bhagavan would say: "I have not come here to punish people. If I start punishing people, even a black crow would not remain in this place. People come here, each with his own purpose, and each may find his purpose fulfilled. Why don't you take care of your own purpose? Why do you pay attention to what others do?"

On some other occasion Bhagavan remarked about some of the visitors: "On their first visit to the Ashrama they seem to be all right; on their second visit they discover that the Ashrama is not properly run; on their third visit they start giving advice; on the fourth they know best how to run the place; on the fifth they discover that the management is not responsive and they are very displeased; on the sixth they suggest that the present staff should walk out, leaving the Ashrama to them. Finally they become disheartened and blame me for what I have never done." After all it is perfectly true that Bhagavan neither started nor organized the Ashrama. It was all done by others who just did what they thought right.

When Bhagavan was still on the hill, a postcard came in which the sender wrote: "I am a poor elementary school teacher. My mother is old and my salary is so small that I cannot look after her properly. Kindly see that I get a raise." Bhagavan laughed and said: "Well, why not?" Another card came after some time in which he wrote: "By your grace my salary was increased. Now there is a vacancy in a higher grade. If I am given that grade, I shall earn more and make my mother very happy." Bhagavan had a good laugh and said: "Good." Again after some days, another card: "My mother is bedridden and there is nobody to nurse her. If I could get married, my wife would look after her. But I am a poor man. Who will give me his daughter in marriage? And where shall I get the money for expenses? Bhagavan may kindly arrange." Bhagavan laughed and said: "Well, let it be so." After some months another postcard came: "By your kindness I was married quite easily. My wife is already with me. My mother wants a grandchild before she dies. Please provide. "Why not?" said Bhagavan. After some months another card: "My wife gave birth to a child, but she has no milk for it. I cannot afford milk for the baby. Please get me a promotion." Then another card: "I got a promotion and an increment. The child is doing well. I owe everything to your kindness." Bhagavan remarked: "What have I done? It is his good karma that all goes well with him." After some days another card: "Mother died. She worshiped you before her death. "Well," said Bhagavan. After a month, another card: "Swami, my child has died." "Sorry," said Bhagavan. Another month had passed and a card came saying: "My wife is pregnant again." Then another card: "My wife gave birth to a child. Both died." "Ram, Ram,'' said Bhagavan. "Everything seems to be over." Then another card: "Due to family trouble my work was very irregular and I was dismissed. I am completely destitute now.'' Bhagavan said, heaving a deep sigh: "All that came has gone; only his Self remained with him. It is always like this. When all goes, only the Self remains."

-- The preceding was taken from "The Bhagavan I Knew" in the Ramana Smriti Souvenir.

Sources:

1) http://www.arunachala.org/newsletters/1992/?pg=nov-dec

2) http://www.arunachala.org/newsletters/2011/?pg=mar-apr#article.2

2 comments:

manivannan said...

wish u and ur family a happy new year!!!!

keep up the great work ur doing :-)))

Prasanth Jalasutram said...

thanks a lot manivannan garu and wish you and your family a very happy new year.

May guru ramana blessings be with all of us.

Om Namo Bhagavate Sri Ramanaya
Prasanth Jalasutram