Tuesday 10 July 2007


Sri Bhagavan became transformed while relating incidents from his vast collection of stories and tales. On one occasion while describing Gautama’s joy at Goddess Parvati’s coming to his Ashram, Sri Bhagavan could not go on, for tears filled his eyes and emotion choked his voice. Trying to hide his plight from others, he remarked, “I don’t know how people who perform Harikatha explain such passages to audiences and manage to do it without breaking down. I suppose they must make their hearts hard like stone before starting their work.”


D: I fear that Self-realisation is no easy thing to attain.
M: Why impede yourself by anticipating failure? Push on. Self-realisation will come to an earnest seeker in a trice. To illustrate this, Sri Bhagavan told the following story:

KING JANAKA WAS listening to a philosophical treatise read by the state pandit, wherein a passage occurred to the effect that a rider who had placed one foot in the stirrup, contemplating upon realisation could realise the Self before he lifted the other foot to place it in the other stirrup. That is, the passage taught, that when realisation comes, it comes in an instant. The king stopped the pandit from proceeding further, and ordered him to prove the statement. The pandit admitted that he was only a book-worm and was unable to impart practical wisdom. Janaka suggested that the text was either false or exaggerated, but the pandit would not agree to this. Though he himself was unable to impart practical wisdom, he maintained that the text could not be false or exaggerated, since it contained the words of wise sages of the past. Janaka was annoyed with the pandit and in a fit of rage condemned him to prison. He then inflicted the same punishment on every pandit who passed for a wise man but was unable to prove this scriptural text.

For fear of being imprisoned, some of the pandits fled the country in voluntary exile. While two or three of them were running through a thick forest, a sage called Ashtavakra,* who though young [* Ashta means ‘eight’ and vakra means ‘bends’. Ashtavakra was so named because his body had eight deformities.] in age was wise in learning, happened to cross their path. Having learnt their plight, Ashtavakra offered to prove the text true to the king and thereby have the imprisoned pandits released. Impressed by his bold assurance, they took him in a palanquin to the king. At the sight of the sage, the king stood up and saluted him with great reverence. Ashtavakra then ordered the king to release all the pandits.

Janaka thought that such an order could come only from one who had the capacity to set his doubts at rest, and hence he released all the pandits and asked the sage whether he could summon the horse. The sage advised him not to be in a hurry and suggested that they should go to a solitary spot. Thereupon the king on his horse and the sage in a palanquin went out of the city towards the forest. When they reached the forest the sage asked the king to send back the retinue. The king did as he was asked, and then placing one of his feet in the stirrup, he requested the sage to prove the scriptural text. But the sage replied by asking whether the position in which they stood indicated a proper master-disciple relationship. The king then understood that he should show due reverence towards Ashtavakra, and prayed to him for grace. The sage then addressed him as ‘Janaka’, since he was no longer a king and told him that before being taught Brahma jnana, a true disciple should surrender himself and all his possessions to his Master. “So be it”, said the king. “So be it” replied the sage and disappeared into the forest.

From that moment Janaka stood transfixed with one foot in the stirrup and the other dangling in the air, as if he were a statue. (Saying this, Sri Bhagavan imitated the posture of King Janaka).

Time passed by, and the citizens, finding no sign of their king returning, grew anxious and began to search for him. They came to the place where Janaka was standing transfixed and were dismayed to find him unaware of their presence and indifferent to their earnest enquiries. They therefore began searching for Ashtavakra who, they thought, must be a charlatan that had cast a spell upon their king, and vowed vengeance upon him. At the same time, being concerned with the king’s condition and wanting to minister to him, they brought him back to the city on a palanquin. The king, however, continued to remain in the same condition.

At last, having found Ashtavakra, the ministers entreated him to remove the alleged spell and bring the king back to his normal condition. At the same time they charged him with the responsibility for having cast the spell. Ashtavakra treated their ignorant remarks with contempt and called the name of Janaka, who immediately saluted him, and responded to his call. The ministers were surprised. Ashtavakra told the king that he was being maliciously accused by the people of having brought him to some sad plight and asked him to tell the truth. On hearing this, the king angrily asked, ‘Who said so’? The ministers were taken by surprise and pleaded for mercy. Thereupon, the sage advised the king to resume his normal functions, adding that Brahma jnana could be taught only to competent persons and that since the king had successfully passed the test, he would now impart it to him. Then the sage remained alone with the king during the night and taught him the ultimate Truth, saying “Brahman is not anything new or apart from oneself and no particular time or place is needed to realise It.” He finally concluded by saying, “That Thou Art” (tat tvam asi). That is the Self, eternal and infinite.

The next morning the ministers found that the king called the assembly and performed his functions as usual. In the assembled court Ashtavakra asked the king whether his former doubt about whether Brahma jnana could be attained as suddenly and as quickly as mentioned in the scriptures was cleared, and if so to bring the horse and demonstrate the truth of it.

The king was all humility now and said, “Lord! Because of my immaturity, I doubted the correctness of the scriptural text. I now realise every letter of it is true.” The ministers thanked the sage.

The Jnani and the Siddha

One day, while speaking about hatha yoga and related subjects, Sri Bhagavan narrated the following story from Prabhulingalila, a well-known Tamil work by the Sage Sivaprakasa Swamigal.

PRABHULINGA, THE FOUNDER of the Lingayat sect (now mostly prevalent in Karnataka State only), was touring the land for the uplift of the spiritually minded. He met the famous Yogi Gorakhnath in Gokarnam (a famous place of Hindu pilgrimage on the west coast of India). The yogi welcomed him respectfully, but was however, proudly conscious of his own extraordinary powers over the elements. He considered his guest more or less his equal, expressed pleasure at meeting him, and upon greeting him, asked who he was.

Prabhulinga replied that only the One who had destroyed his ego, root and branch, and who had thereby realised himself could know who he was, and wondered what he could say to a non-entity, a person, who clung to his perishable body.

Gorakhnath, who identified his body as himself, replied, “That person alone who has gained the immortality of the body, by the favour of Siva and consumption of gulikas (medicinal herbs), will never die. Therefore one who had not gained such immortality dies.”

Prabhulinga remarked that knowledge consists in realizing one’s Self and not in immortalising the body and went on to explain at length that the body cannot be the real Self. However, Gorakhnath could not be persuaded and would not budge an inch from his ground; he proudly challenged Prabhulinga to try cutting his body, handing him a long, bright and sharp sword. When the sword struck the body of Gorakhnath, it caused him no injury but was itself blunted. Prabhulinga feigned surprise, and asked Gorakhnath to try cutting his body. At first Gorakhnath hesitated to do so saying that Prabhulinga would die. But when Prabhulinga insisted, he took up the sword and tried to cut his body. To the great surprise of Gorakhnath, the sword passed easily through the body of Prabhulinga without affecting it in any way. It was as if the sword was passing through empty space!

Only then was Gorakhnath, the Siddha, ready to acknowledge the superiority of Prabhulinga, the Jnani. Thus his pride was humbled, and he prayed to Prabhulinga, to teach him the truth. Prabhulinga then expounded Brahma vidya to Gorakhnath as follows:
“Gorakhnath, do not think your body to be your Self. Seek the In-dweller (the cave-dweller) and you will once for all rid yourself of the disease of birth and death. The cave is your heart only, the In-dweller thereof is called God and I am That.”

Twentyfour Gurus

A KING WAS passing through a forest in all pomp and pageantry, with his army and retinue behind him. He came across a man with not even a cod-piece on, lying on the ground, with one leg cocked over the other. He was laughing away, apparently supremely happy, contented with himself and all the world. The king was struck with the man’s happy state and sent for him. But when the king’s men approached the nude ascetic and delivered the king’s message, he took absolutely no notice and continued in his ascetic bliss. On being told of this, the king himself went to the man and even then the man took no notice. Thereupon it struck the king that this must be no common man, and said, ‘Swami, you are evidently supremely happy. May we know what is the secret of such happiness and from which guru you learnt it?’

Thereupon the ascetic told the king, ‘I have had twentyfour gurus. Everything, this body, the earth, the birds, some instruments, some persons, all have taught me’. All the things in the world may be classed as either good or bad. The good taught him what he must seek. Similarly, the bad taught him what he must avoid. The ascetic was Dattatreya, the avadhuta.

Enter the Heart

A devotee who had suddenly lost his only son came to Bhagavan in a state of acute grief, seeking relief. He asked a few questions in which his grief was evident. Bhagavan, as usual, asked him to enquire into the Self and find out who is grieving. The devotee was not satisfied. Bhagavan then said, “All right. I will tell you a story from Vichara Sagaram. Listen”.

TWO YOUNGSTERS BY name Rama and Krishna, told their respective parents that they would go to foreign countries to prosecute further studies and then earn a lot of money. After some time, one of them died suddenly. The other studied well, earned a lot and was living happily. Some time later the one that was alive requested a merchant who was going to his native place to tell his father that he was wealthy and happy and that the other boy who had come with him had passed away. Instead of passing on the information correctly, the merchant told the father of the person who was alive, that his son was dead, and the father of the person that was dead, that his son had earned a lot of money and was living happily. The parents of the person that was actually dead, were happy in the thought that their son would come back after some time, while the parents of the person whose son was alive, but was reported to be dead, were in great grief.

In fact, neither of them saw their son but they were experiencing happiness or grief according to the reports they received. That is all. We too are similarly situated. We believe all sorts of things that the mind tells us and get deluded into thinking that what exists does not exist and that what does not exist exists. If we do not believe the mind but enter the heart and see the son that is inside, there is no need to see the children outside.


During a conversation on non-attachment, Bhagavan said, “In this part of the country, one of our ancients wrote, ‘O Lord, thou hast given me a hand to use as pillow under my head, a cloth to cover my loins, hands wherewith to eat food, what more do I want? This is my great good fortune’!

That is the purport of the verse. Is it really possible to say how great a good fortune that is? Even the greatest kings wish for such happiness. There is nothing to equal it. Having experienced both these conditions, I know the difference between this and that. These beds, sofa and articles around me – all this is bondage.”

“Is not the Buddha an example of this?” asked a devotee. Thereupon Sri Bhagavan began speaking about Buddha.

“YES,” SAID BHAGAVAN, “when the Buddha was in the palace with all possible luxuries in the world, he was still sad. To remove his sadness, his father created more luxuries than ever. But none of them satisfied the Buddha. At midnight he left his wife and child and disappeared. He remained in great austerity for six years, realised the Self; and for the welfare of the world became a mendicant (bhikshu). It was only after he became a mendicant that he enjoyed great bliss. Really, what more did he require?”

“In the garb of a mendicant he came to his own city, did he not?” asked a devotee.

“Yes, yes,” said Bhagavan. “Having heard that he was coming, his father, Suddhodana, decorated the royal elephant and went out with his whole army to receive him on the main road. But without touching the main road, the Buddha came by side roads and by-lanes; he sent his close associates to the various streets for alms while he himself in the guise of a mendicant went by another way to his father. How could the father know that his son was coming in that guise! Yasodhara (the Buddha’s wife), however, recognised him, made her son prostrate before his father and herself prostrated. After that, the father recognised the Buddha. Suddhodana however, had never expected to see his son in such a state and was very angry and shouted, ‘Shame on you! What is this garb? Does one who should have the greatest of riches come like this? I’ve had enough of it!’

And with that, he looked furiously at the Buddha. Regretting that his father had not yet got rid of his ignorance, the Buddha too, began to look at his father with even greater intensity. In this war of looks, the father was defeated. He fell at the feet of his son and himself became a mendicant. Only a man with non-attachment can know the power of non-attachment”, said Bhagavan, his voice quivering with emotion.

The Sadhu and the Three Stones

In 1949 the inauguration of Mother’s Temple took place, and the dedicated labour of ten years was consecrated in Sri Bhagavan’s presence. In front of the Matrubhuteswara Shrine, the Jubilee Hall was built to accommodate the ever-increasing number of devotees. A large granite couch was installed with elaborate carvings, spread with a silken mattress for Bhagavan’s comfort. As a big pillow was placed on one side for Bhagavan to keep his arms, another behind him to lean against and a third one at his feet, the actual seating space was considerably reduced.

One day when Suri Nagamma entered the hall Sri Bhagavan said, looking at his attendants, “See how this mattress slips from one side to another! People think that it will be comfortable for Bhagavan if there is a costly mattress. It is, however, not possible to sit on this restfully. Why this? It would be much more comfortable if I sat on the stone seat itself. As told in the story about the sadhu, people think that Swami is undergoing great hardship when he lives in a thatched shed and lies on a stone bench, and so they make a fuss. It will perhaps be better if, like that sadhu in the story, I gather some stones similar to those I had in the Virupaksha Cave, take them to whichever place I go, and spread them on a mattress like this.”

A devotee asked, “What is that story of the sadhu which Bhagavan has now mentioned?” Whereupon Bhagavan began relating the following story.

A GREAT MAHATMA was living as a sadhu under a tree in a forest. He always used to keep with him three stones. While sleeping, he used to keep one of them under the head, another under the waist and the third under the legs and cover himself with a sheet. When it rained, the body used to be on the stones and so the water would flow underneath, and the water that fell on the sheet too, would flow down. So there was no disturbance to his sleep; he used to sleep soundly. When sitting, he used to keep the three stones together like a hearth and sit upon them comfortably. Hence snakes and other reptiles did not trouble him nor did he trouble them, for they used to crawl through the slits under the stones. Somebody used to bring him food and he would eat it. And so, there was nothing for him to worry about.

A king, who came to that forest for hunting, saw this sadhu and felt, ‘What a pity! How much must he be suffering by having to adjust his body suitably to those stones and sleep thereon. I will take him home and keep him with me for at least one or two days and make him feel comfortable’. So thinking, he went home and sent two of his soldiers with a palanquin and bearers, with instructions to invite the sadhu respectfully and bring him to his palace. He also said that if they did not succeed in bringing the sadhu, they would be punished. They came and saw the sadhu and told him that the king had ordered them to bring him to the palace and that he should come. When he showed disinclination to go with them, they said that they would be punished if they returned without him. So they begged of him to come, if only to save them from trouble. As he did not want them to get into trouble on his account, he agreed to go with them. What was there for him to pack up? A kaupeenam, a sheet and those three stones. He folded and kept the kaupeenam in that sheet, kept those three stones also in the sheet and tied them together. ‘What is this? This Swami is bringing with him some stones when he is going to a Raja’s palace!

Is he mad or what?’ thought those soldiers. Anyway, he got into the palanquin with his bundle and came to the king. The Raja saw the bundle, and thinking it contained some personal effects, took him into the palace with due respect, feasted him properly and arranged a tape cot with a mattress of silk cotton to sleep upon. The sadhu opened his bundle, took out the three stones, spread them on the bed, covered himself with the sheet and slept as usual.

The next morning the king came, bowed to him with respect and asked, “Swami, is it comfortable for you here?” Swami: “Yes. What is there wanting here? I am always happy.”
King: “That is not it, Swami. You were experiencing hardships in the forest by having to sleep on those stones. Here this bed and this house must be giving you happiness. That is why I am asking.”

Swami: “The bed that was there is here also. The bed that is here is there also. So I have the same happiness everywhere. There is nothing wanting at any time, either in regard to my sleep or to my happiness.”

The king was puzzled and looked at the cot. He saw that the three stones were on it. Whereupon, the king immediately prostrated himself before the sadhu and said, “Oh great man! Without knowing your greatness I brought you here with the intention of making you happy. I did not know that you are always in a state of happiness, and so I behaved in this foolish manner. Please excuse me and bless me.”
After making up for his mistake in this way, he allowed the sadhu to go his way. This is the story of the sadhu.

“So, in the eyes of Mahatmas, the free life is the real happy life?” asked that devotee. “What else? Life in big buildings like this is like prison life. Only I may be an ‘A’ class prisoner. When I sit on mattresses like these, I feel that I am sitting on prickly pears. Where is peace and comfort?” said Bhagavan.

Next day that mattress was taken away and the usual mattress was spread on the couch. Even so, several people thought that it might be better to leave Bhagavan to a free life like that of the sadhu. But Bhagavan had to stay there alone, like a parrot in the cage of the devotees, because the devotees never leave him free.


A devotee asked, “Can anyone get any benefit by repeating sacred syllables (mantras) picked up casually?” Sri Bhagavan replied, “No. He must be competent and initiated in such mantras.” To illustrate this he told the following story.

A KING VISITED his minister in his residence. There he was told that the minister was engaged in repetition of sacred syllables (japa). The king waited for him and, on meeting him, asked what the japa was. The minister said that it was the holiest of all, Gayatri. The king desired to be initiated by the minister but the minister confessed his inability to initiate him. Therefore the king learned it from someone else, and meeting the minister later he repeated the Gayatri and wanted to know if it was right.

The minister said that the mantra was correct, but it was not proper for him to say it. When pressed for an explanation the minister called to a page close by and ordered him to take hold of the king. The order was not obeyed. The order was often repeated, and still not obeyed. The king flew into a rage and ordered the same man to hold the minister, and it was immediately done.

The minister laughed and said that the incident was the explanation required by the king. “How?” asked the king. The minister replied, “The order was the same and the executor also, but the authority was different. When I ordered, the effect was nil whereas, when you ordered, there was immediate effect. Similarly with mantras.”

Peace is the Sole Criterion

When asked about the characteristics of a jnani, Bhagavan said, “They are described in books, such as the Bhagavad Gita, but we must bear in mind that the jnani’s state is one which transcends the mind. It cannot be described by the mind. Only Silence can correctly describe this state and its characteristics. Silence is more effective than speech. From Silence came the ego, from the ego came thought, and from thought came speech. So if speech is effective, how much more effective must be its original source!” Then, in this connection Sri Bhagavan related the following story.

TATTVARAYA COMPOSED A bharani (a kind of poetic composition in Tamil) in honour of his Guru Swarupananda and convened an assembly of learned pandits to hear the work and assess its value. The pandits raised the objection that a bharani was only composed in honour of great heroes capable of killing a thousand elephants, and that it was not in order to compose such a work in honour of an ascetic. Thereupon the author said, “Let us all go to my guru and we shall have this matter settled there.”
They went to the guru and, after all had taken their seats, the author told his guru the purpose of their coming there. The guru sat silent and all the others also remained in mauna. The whole day passed, night came, and some more days and nights, and yet all sat there silently, no thought at all occurring to any of them and nobody asked why they had come there. After three or four days like this, the guru moved his mind a bit, and thereupon the assembly regained their thought activity. They then declared, “Conquering a thousand elephants is nothing compared to the guru’s power to conquer the rutting elephants of all our egos put together. So certainly he deserves the bharani in his honour!”

The Garlic Plant

While Bhagavan was perusing the monthly journal Grihalakshmi he began to laugh and handed the journal to Suri Nagamma as she was leaving the hall, saying, “The greatness of garlic is described in it. Please read it.” The article contained recipes for making chutneys and pickles and in conclusion it stated that there is nothing equal to it in its greatness and its benefit to the body. When Suri Nagamma returned to the hall in the afternoon, Sri Bhagavan inquired if she had read the article and said, “People say it is very good for health. Really it is so. It cures rheumatism and gives strength to the body. For children it acts like amrit (nectar). Garlic is also known as amrit.” A devotee asked how it got that name. Sri Bhagavan replied, “There is a curious story about it,” and began telling the following story.

AS IS WELL known, when gods (devas) and demons (rakshasas) churned the ocean, amrit came out of it. When the rakshasas were running away with the vessel containing amrit, the devas appealed to Vishnu. Vishnu came on to the scene in the shape of Mohini (enchantress), and offered to resolve their quarrel by serving amrit to them all. They agreed. While serving it to the gods first, it appeared that there might not be enough to go round for the demons. One of the latter got into the line of the gods, unobserved by Mohini, and was swallowing the amrit, when the Sun and Moon noticed it and gave her the hint. She threw the ladle, with which the amrit was being served, at the demon in such a way as to cut off his head. The ladle became the Chakra (an invincible lethal weapon of Vishnu) and cut off his head. But as the amrit had already gone down his throat, the head became a graha (planet) and has since been taking vengeance on the Sun and Moon at the time of an eclipse. That is the story. Now, when the head of the demon was severed, the trunk fell down, and in the process, a few drops of amrit fell on the ground. It is said that those drops became the garlic plant. That is why it is said that garlic has some of the properties of amrit. It is very good for the body. But since it also has the touch of the demon, it has tamasic qualities too, which when eaten affect the mind. Hence, it is forbidden for sadhakas.

‘I’ and You

An earnest devotee asked Sri Bhagavan about the method to realize the Self. As usual, Sri Bhagavan told him to find out who is the ‘I’ in his question. After a few more questions in this strain the devotee asked, “Instead of enquiring ‘Who am I?’, can I put the question to myself ‘Who are you?’ since then, my mind may be fixed on you whom I consider to be God in the form of Guru.”

Sri Bhagavan replied, “Whatever form your enquiry may take, you must finally come to the one ‘I’, the Self. All these distinctions made between ‘I’ and ‘you’, master and disciple, are merely a sign of one’s ignorance. That ‘I’ Supreme alone is. To think otherwise is to delude oneself.” Thereupon Sri Bhagavan told the following story.

A PURANIC STORY of Sage Ribhu and his disciple Nidagha, is particularly instructive.

Although Ribhu taught his disciple the Supreme Truth of the One Brahman without a second, Nidagha, in spite of his erudition and understanding, did not get sufficient conviction to adopt and follow the path of jnana, but settled down in his native town to lead a life devoted to the observance of ceremonial religion.

But the sage loved his disciple as deeply as the latter venerated his Master. In spite of his age, Ribhu would himself go to his disciple in the town, just to see how far the latter had outgrown his ritualism. At times the sage went in disguise, so that he might observe how Nidagha would act when he did not know that he was being observed by his master.

On one such occasion Ribhu, who had put on the disguise of a rustic, found Nidagha intently watching a royal procession. Unrecognised by the town-dweller Nidagha, the village rustic enquired what the bustle was all about, and was told that the king was going in procession.

“Oh! It is the king. He goes in procession! But where is he?” asked the rustic.

“There, on the elephant,” said Nidagha. “You say the king is on the elephant. Yes, I see the two,” said the rustic, “But which is the king and which is the elephant?”
“What!” exclaimed Nidagha. “You see the two, but do not know that the man above is the king and the animal below is the elephant? What is the use of talking to a man like you?”
“Pray, be not impatient with an ignorant man like me,” begged the rustic. “But you said ‘above’ and ‘below’ – what do they mean?”

Nidagha could stand it no more. “You see the king and the elephant, the one above and the other below. Yet you want to know what is meant by ‘above’ and ‘below’?” burst out Nidagha. “If things seen and words spoken can convey so little to you, action alone can teach you. Bend forward, and you will know it all too well”.

The rustic did as he was told. Nidagha got on his shoulders and said, “Know it now. I am above as the king, you are below as the elephant. Is that clear enough?”

“No, not yet,” was the rustic’s quiet reply. “You say you are above like the king, and I am below like the elephant. The ‘king’, the ‘elephant’, ‘above’ and ‘below’ – so far it is clear. But pray, tell me what you mean by ‘I’ and ‘you’?”

When Nidagha was thus confronted all of a sudden with the mighty problem of defining the ‘you’ apart from the ‘I’, light dawned on his mind. At once he jumped down and fell at his Master’s feet saying, “Who else but my venerable Master, Ribhu, could have thus drawn my mind from the superficialities of physical existence to the true Being of the Self? Oh! Benign Master, I crave thy blessings.”

Earnestness or Faith (Sraddha)

A devotee obtained a copy of Sri Bhagavan’s work Ulladu Narpadu (Forty Verses on Reality) and began to write out the entire work for himself. Seeing him doing this writing with earnestness, though with a certain amount of difficulty and strain, since the devotee was not accustomed to squatting and doing continuous writing work, Bhagavan told the story of a sannyasi and his disciples to illustrate what is called sraddha – earnestness of purpose.

THERE WAS ONCE a guru who had eight disciples. One day he instructed them all to make a copy of his teachings from a note- book he had kept. One of them, who had lived an easy-going life before renouncing the world, could not make a copy for himself. He, therefore paid a couple of rupees to a fellow disciple and requested him to make a copy for him also. The guru examined the copy books one day and, noticing two books in the same handwriting, asked the disciples for an explanation. Both the writer and the one on whose behalf it was written told the truth about it.

The Master commented that, though speaking the truth was an essential quality of a spiritual aspirant, it alone would not carry one to one’s goal, but that sraddha (earnestness of purpose) was also necessary. Since this had not been exhibited by the disciple who had entrusted his own labour to another, he was disqualified from discipleship. Referring to his making payment for the work, the guru sarcastically remarked that “Salvation” costs more than that and he was at liberty to purchase it rather than undergo training under him. So saying he dismissed that disciple.

In the World but not of the World

KADUVELI SIDDHAR WAS famed as a very austere hermit.

He lived on the dry leaves fallen from trees. The king of the country heard of him and offered a reward to one who would prove this man’s worth. A rich dasi agreed to do it. She began to live near the recluse and pretended to attend on him. She gently left pieces of pappadam along with the dry leaves picked by him. When he had eaten them she began to leave other kinds of tasty food along with the dry leaves. Eventually he took good tasty dishes supplied by her. They became intimate and a child was born to them. She reported the matter to the king.

The king wanted to know if she could prove their mutual relationship to the general public. She agreed and suggested a plan of action. Accordingly the king announced a public dancing performance by the dasi and invited the people to it. The crowd gathered and she also appeared, but not before she had given a dose of physic to the child and left it in charge of the saint at home.

As the dance was at its height, the child was crying at home for its mother. The father took the babe in his arms and went to the dancing performance. As she was dancing hilariously he could not approach her with the child. She noticed the man and the babe, and contrived to kick her legs in the dance, so as to unloose one of her anklets just as she approached the place where the saint was. She gently lifted her foot and he tied the anklet. The public shouted and laughed. But he remained unaffected. Yet to prove his worth, he sang a Tamil song meaning:
“For victory, let go my anger!
I release my mind when it rushes away.

If it is true that I sleep day and night quite aware of my Self,
may this stone burst into twain
and become the wide expanse!”

Immediately the stone (idol) burst with a loud noise. The people were astounded.

Thus he proved himself an unswerving jnani. One should not be deceived by the external appearance of a jnani. Verse 181 of Vedanta Chudamani further explains this. Its meaning is as follows:

Although a jivanmukta associated with the body may, owing to his prarabdha, appear to lapse into ignorance or wisdom, yet he is only pure like the ether (akasa) which is always itself clear, whether covered by dense clouds or without being covered by clouds. He always revels in the Self alone, like a loving wife taking pleasure with her husband alone. Though she attends on him with things obtained from others (by way of fortune, as determined by her prarabdha). Though he remains silent like one devoid of learning, his supineness is due to the implicit duality of the vaikhari vak (spoken words) of the Vedas; his silence is the highest expression of the realised non-duality which is after all the true content of the Vedas. Though he instructs his disciples, he does not pose as a teacher in the full conviction that the teacher and disciple are mere conventions born of illusion (maya), and so he continues to utter words like akasvani.

If, on the other hand, he mutters words incoherently like a lunatic, it is because his experience is inexpressible. If his words are many and fluent like those of an orator, they represent the recollection of his experience, since he is the unmoving non- dual One without any desire awaiting fulfilment. Although he may appear grief-stricken like any other man in bereavement, yet he evinces just the right love of and pity for the senses which he earlier controlled before he realised that they were mere instruments and manifestations of the Supreme Being. When he seems keenly interested in the wonders of the world, he is only ridiculing the ignorance born of superimposition. If he appears wrathful he means well to the offenders. All his actions should be taken to be only divine manifestations on the plane of humanity. There should not arise even the least doubt as to his being emancipated while yet alive. He lives only for the good of the world.

Total Abidance

A devotee asked, “How does the repetition of the name of God help Realisation?”

Sri Bhagavan replied, “The original name is always going on spontaneously without any effort on the part of the individual. That name is aham – ‘I’. But when it becomes manifest it manifests as ahamkara – the ego. The oral repetition of the name leads one to mental repetition which finally resolves itself into the eternal vibration. The mind or the mouth cannot act without the Self.” Thereupon Sri Bhagavan told the following story.

TUKARAM, THE GREAT Maharashtra Saint, used to remain in samadhi in the day and sing and dance at night with large crowds of people. He always used to utter the name of Sri Rama. Once he was answering the call of nature and also saying “Ram, Ram”. An orthodox priest was shocked at the uttering of the holy name by the saint when his body was not clean. Hence he reprimanded him and ordered him to be silent. Tukaram said, “All right!” and remained mute. But at once there arose the name of Rama from every pore of Tukaram and the priest was horrified by the din. He then prayed to Tukaram, “Restrictions are only for the common people and not for saints like you.”

Quiet Piety

THERE WAS A king with a devoted queen. She was a devotee of Sri Rama and yearned that her husband should similarly be a devotee. One night she found that the king mumbled something in his sleep. She kept her ears close to his lips and heard the word ‘Rama’ repeated continually as in japa. She was delighted and the next day ordered the minister to hold a feast. The king having partaken of the feast asked his wife for an explanation. She related the whole occurrence and said that the feast was in gratitude to God for the fulfilment of a long cherished wish.

The king was however annoyed that his devotion should have been found out. Some say that having thus betrayed God he considered himself unworthy of God and so committed suicide. It means that one should not openly display one’s piety. We may take it that the king told the queen not to make a fuss over his piety and they then lived happily together.

Unknown Tenth Man

D.: Not having realised the Truth that the Self alone exists, should I not adopt bhakti and yoga margas as being more suitable for purposes of sadhana than vichara marga? Is not the Realization of one’s Absolute Being that is, Brahma jnana, something quite unattainable to a layman like me?

Ramana Maharshi.: Brahma jnana is not a knowledge to be acquired, so that acquiring it one may obtain happiness. It is one’s ignorant outlook that one should give up. The Self you seek to know is verily yourself. Your supposed ignorance causes you needless grief like that of the ten foolish men who grieved the ‘loss’ of the tenth man who was never lost.

THE TEN FOOLISH men in the parable forded a stream and on reaching the other shore wanted to make sure that all of them had in fact safely crossed the stream. One of the ten began to count, but while counting others left himself out. “I see only nine; sure enough we have lost one. Who can it be?” he said

“Did you count correctly?” asked another, and did the counting himself. But he too counted only nine. One after the other each of the ten counted only nine, missing himself. “We are only nine” they all agreed, “but who is the missing one?”, they asked themselves. Every effort they made to discover the ‘missing’ individual failed. “Whoever he be that is drowned” said the sentimental of ten fools, “we have lost him”. So saying he burst into tears, and the rest of the nine followed suit.

Seeing them weeping on the river bank, a sympathetic wayfarer enquired for the cause. They related what had happened and said that even after counting themselves several times they could find no more than nine. On hearing the story, but seeing all the ten before him, the wayfarer guessed what had happened. In order to make them know for themselves that they were really ten, that all of them had come safe from the crossing, he told them, “Let each of you count for himself but one after the other serially, one, two, three and so on, while I shall give you each a blow so that all of you may be sure of having been included in the count, and included only once. The tenth ‘missing’ man will then be found.”

Hearing this they rejoiced at the prospect of finding their ‘lost’ comrade and accepted the method suggested by the wayfarer.

While the kind wayfarer gave a blow to each of the ten in turn, he that got the blow counted himself aloud. “Ten” said the last man as he got the last blow in his turn. Bewildered they looked at one another, “We are ten” they said with one voice and thanked the wayfarer for having removed their grief.

That is the parable. From where was the tenth man brought in? Was he ever lost? By knowing that he had been there all the while, did they learn anything new? The cause of their grief was not the real loss of any one of the ten, it was their own ignorance, rather their mere supposition that one of them was lost – though they could not find who he was – because they counted only nine.

God Works for His devotee

ON A PARTICULAR day in the year the God and the Goddess are taken to an adjoining field and the festival of the gods and goddess is celebrated. This is in memory of the fact that one day Sundaramurti Swami entered the temple and found to his dismay that neither God nor Goddess was there, and that on searching for them he found them in a field working at transplanting seedlings for a devotee, a Harijan.

Each Reflects His Own Nature

A NAYANAR WENT to Kalahasti for the darsan of God. He saw all the people there as Siva, and Sakti, because he Himself was so. Again Dharmaputra considered that the whole world was composed of people having some merit or other and that each of them was even better than he himself for some reason or other. Whereas Duryodhana could not find even a single good person in the world. Each reflects his own nature.

The Master’s Payment

A DISCIPLE SERVED his master for a long time and realised the Self. He was in Bliss and wanted to express his gratitude to the Master. He was in tears of joy and his voice choked when he spoke. He said, “What a wonder that I did not know my very Self all these years! I suffered long and you so graciously helped me to realise the Self. How shall I repay your grace? It is not in my power to do it.”

The Master replied, “Well, well. Your repayment consists in not lapsing into ignorance again but in continuing in the state of your real Self.”

The Fault Lies in Exposure

EZHUTHACHAN, A GREAT saint and author, had a few fish concealed on him when he entered the temple. The saint was searched and taken to the king. The king asked him, “Why did you take the fish into the temple?”

He replied, “It is not my fault. I had it concealed in my clothes. The others exposed the fish in the temple. The fault lies in exposure. Excreta within the body are not considered filthy; but when excreted, they are considered filthy. So also with this.”

Brahmachari’s Touch

SRI BHAGAVAN WARNED the hearers against the mistake of disparaging a jnani for his apparent conduct and again cited the story of Parikshit. He was a still born child. The ladies cried and appealed to Sri Krishna to save the child. The sages round about wondered how Krishna was going to save the child from the effects of the arrows (apandavastra) of Asvattama.

Krishna said, “If the child be touched by one eternally celibate (nityabramachari) the child would be brought to life.” Even Suka dared not touch the child. Finding no one among the reputed saints bold enough to touch the child, Krishna went and touched it, saying, “If I am eternally celibate (nityabramachari) may the child be brought to life.”

The child began to breathe and later grew up to be Parikshit. Just consider how Krishna surrounded by 16,000 gopis is a brahmachari! Such is the mystery of jivanmukti! A jivanmukta is one who does not see anything separate from the Self.

The King and His Ministers

D: What is the difference between a man who makes no attempt and remains an ajnani, and another who gains a glimpse and returns to ajnana?
M: In the latter case a stimulus is always present to goad him on to further efforts until the Realisation is perfect.

D: The Srutis say, ‘this knowledge of Brahman shines forth once and for ever’.
M: They refer to the permanent Realisation and not to the glimpse.

D: How is it possible that a man forgets his own experience and falls back into ignorance?
Sri Bhagavan illustrated this with the following story.

THERE WAS A king who treated his subjects well. One of his ministers gained his confidence and misused the influence. All the other ministers and officers were adversely affected and they hit upon a plan to get rid of him. They instructed the guards not to let the man enter the palace. The king noted his absence and enquired after him. He was informed that the man was taken ill and could not therefore come to the palace. The king deputed his physician to attend on the minister. False reports were conveyed to the king that the minister was sometimes improving and at other times collapsing. The king desired to see the patient. But the pandits said that such an action was against the dharma. Later the minister was reported to have died. The king was very sorry when he heard the news.

The arrogant minister was kept informed of all the happenings by spies of his own. He tried to foil the other ministers. He waited for the king to come out of the palace so that he might report himself to the king. On one occasion he climbed up a tree, hid himself among the branches and awaited the king. The king came out that night in the palanquin and the man in hiding jumped down in front of the palanquin and shouted his identity. The companion of the king was equally resourceful. He at once took out a handful of sacred ashes (vibhuti) from his pocket and scattered it in the air so that the king was obliged to close his eyes. The companion also shouted victory (jai) to the king and ordered the band to play so that the other man’s shout was drowned in the noise. He also ordered the palanquin-bearers to move fast and he himself sang incantations to keep off evil spirits. The king was thus left under the impression that the dead man’s ghost was playing pranks with him.

The disappointed man became desperate and retired into the forest for tapasya (austerities). After a long time the king happened to go hunting. He came across the former minister seated in deep contemplation. But he hastened away from the spot lest the ghost should molest him.

The Greatness of Japa

A devotee asked, “Swami, what is the easiest way to attain moksha?”

Bhagavan said with a smile, “As and when the mind goes astray, it should be turned inward and made to steady itself in the thought of the Self. That is the only way.”

Another devotee said, “To do so, the repeating of the name of Rama is good, is it not?”

“Certainly, it is good,” said Bhagavan. “What could be better? The greatness of the japa of the name of Rama is extraordinary. In the story of Namadeva he is reported to have told one devotee, ‘If you want to know the greatness of the name of Rama you must first know what your own name is, what your real nature (swarupa) is, who you are and how you were born. Unless you know your own origin, you will not know your name!’ This idea is found in the Abhangas of Namadeva written in Marathi language and in the Malayalam Adhyatma Ramayana.” Thereupon Bhagavan related a story from the latter.

IT IS STATED in that book that when Anjaneya (Hanuman) went in search of Sita, he seated himself opposite to Ravana in the Darbar Hall on a high pedestal and fearlessly spoke to him thus:
‘Oh Ravana, I give you a teaching (upadesa) for attaining liberation (moksha). Please listen to me carefully. It is certain that the Self (Atma) gets purified by intense devotion to Hari, who is in the lotus of the Heart at all times. The ego gets destroyed and then the sin gets destroyed. Afterwards, in its place, the knowledge of the transcendent Self emerges. With a pure mind and with the Bliss (Ananda) generated by a firm knowledge of the Self, the two letters ‘Ra’ ‘Ma’ which are like mantras, will repeat themselves within you automatically. What more is required for a person who has this knowledge, however little it might be? Hence worship the lotus feet of Vishnu, which will remove all worldly fears, which are dear to all devotees and which shine as brightly as the light of a crore of Suns. Give up the ignorance of your mind’

This has been mentioned in two or three slokas in the Sanskrit Adhyatma Ramayanam but not as elaborately as in the Malayalam text.
Is the greatness of the name of Rama ordinary?

Silent Eloquence

Lakshman Brahmachari from Sri Ramakrishna Mission asked, “Enquiry of ‘Who am I?’ or of the ‘I-thought’ being itself a thought, how can it be destroyed in the process?” Sri Bhagavan replied with a story.

WHEN SITA WAS asked who was her husband among the rishis (Rama himself being present there as a rishi) in the forest, by the wives of the rishis, she denied each one as he was pointed out to her, but simply hung down her head when Rama was pointed out. Her silence was eloquent.

Similarly, the Vedas also are eloquent in neti-neti (not this, not this) and then remain silent. Their silence is the Real State. This is the meaning of exposition by silence. When the source of the ‘I’-thought is reached it vanishes and what remains is the Self.

Headship of a Mutt

A devotee told Bhagavan about his ill-health, treatment by doctors and services rendered to him by his servants. Bhagavan did not immediately reply to him, but in the evening, when the devotees all gathered, he began massaging his own legs with oil. Looking at the questioner with a smile, he said, “We are our own doctors and our own servants.” The questioner then said, “What are we to do if we do not have strength like Bhagavan to attend to our own work?” Bhagavan’s reply was, “If we have strength to eat, why should we not have strength to do this?” The questioner could not say anything and so kept silent with his head bent. Just then the post arrived. After looking through the letters, Bhagavan narrated the following story.

ONCE A CERTAIN sanyasi was anxious to be the head of a Mutt. He had to have disciples, you see and he tried his level best to secure some. Anyone who came, soon found out the limited knowledge of the person and so went away. No one stayed on. What could he do?

One day he had to go to a city. There he had to keep up his position; but he had no disciple. No one must know this. His bundle of clothes, etc., was on his head. So, he thought he would place the bundle in some house unobserved and then pretend to go there afterwards. He wandered throughout the place. Whenever he tried to step into a house, he found a number of people in front of it. Poor chap! What could he do? It was almost evening. He was tired. At last he found a house with no one in front. The door was open. Greatly relieved, he placed the bundle in one corner of the house and then sat in the verandah.

After a while the lady of the house came out and enquired who he was. “Me! I am the head of a Mutt in such and such a place. I came to this city on some work. I heard that you were good householders. I therefore sent my belongings through my disciple to put them in your house thinking that we could put up with you for the night and go away next morning. Has he done so?” “No one has come sir”, she said. “No, please. I asked him to put the bundle here, go to the bazaar and get some things. Kindly see if he has put it in any corner”, he said. When the lady searched this side and that, she saw the bundle in one corner. Thereupon she and her husband welcomed him and gave him food, etc.

Rather late in the night, they asked, “How is it, sir your disciple has not come yet?” He said, “Perhaps that useless fellow has eaten something in the bazaar and is wandering about. You please go to bed. If he comes, I will open the door for him.” That couple had by then understood the sanyasi’s true position. They thought they would see further fun and so went into the house to lie down. Then the person started his acting. He opened the door and closed it, making a loud noise so as to be heard by the members of the household. He then said loudly, “Why! What have you been doing so long? Take care – if you do it again, I shall beat you black and blue. Be careful henceforth.” Changing his tone thereafter, he said in a plaintive voice, “Swami, Swami, please excuse me. I shall not do it again.”

Assuming the original tone, he said, “All right. Come here, massage my legs here. No, there. Please hit lightly with your fists. Yes a little more.” So saying, he massaged his own legs and then said, “Enough. It is rather late. Go to bed.” So saying he went to sleep. There was a hole in the wall of the room where the couple were staying and through it they saw the whole farce. In the early morning the sanyasi again began repeating the evening’s performance, saying, “You lazy fellow! The cocks have begun to crow. Go to so and so’s house and come back after doing such and such work.” So saying, he opened the door, pretended to send him away and went back to bed. The couple saw this also.

In the morning he bundled up his belongings, put the bundle in a corner, and went to a tank nearby for bathing, etc. The couple took the bundle and hid it somewhere. The sannyasi returned and searched the whole room but the bundle was not found anywhere. So he asked the lady of the house, “Where is my bundle?” The couple then replied, “Sir, your disciple came here and took away the bundle saying you wanted him to bring it to you. It is the same person who massaged your legs last night. He must be round the corner. Please see, Swami.” What could he do then? He kept his mouth shut and started going home.

This is what happens if a disciple serves you. Just like me, we are our own servants.

So saying, Bhagavan pretended to massage his legs with his hands and his fists.

Bhakta Ekanath

A discussion in the hall centred on the story of Kulasekhara Alwar, which had appeared in the Vision magazine. During a Harikatha, Kulasekhara identifying himself so completely with the situation of the story, felt it his duty as a worshipper of Rama to at once hasten to Lanka and release Sita. He ran to the sea and entered it to cross over to Lanka, when Rama appeared with Sita and Lakshmana and showered His grace on him. This led others in the hall to remark, “Some Maratha saint also did a similar thing. He leaped up to the roof, I think.” Thereupon Sri Bhagavan related the story.

EKANATH WAS WRITING the Ramayana, and when he came to the portion in which he was graphically describing that Hanuman jumped across the ocean to Lanka, he so identified himself with his hero Hanuman that unconsciously he leaped into the air and landed on the roof of his neighbour’s house. This neighbour had always had a poor opinion of Ekanath, taking him for a humbug and religious hypocrite. He heard a thud on his roof, and coming out to see what it was, discovered Ekanath lying down on the roof with a cadjan leaf in one hand and his iron stile in the other. The cadjan leaf had verses describing how Hanuman leapt across the sea. This incident proved to the neighbour what a genuine bhakta Ekanath was and he became his disciple.

After a pause Bhagavan also related: “God appeared in a dream to Ekanath and asked him to go and repair the tomb of Jnaneswar. When Ekanath went there accordingly, he found a contractor ready to do all the work and take payment at the end. The contractor opened a big account in which all expenses were entered, with the names of all the workmen and wages paid. Everything went on systematically. When the work of repairs was completed, the accounts were looked into and the contractor paid his dues. Then the contractor and his big account book totally disappeared. Then alone Ekanath came to know that God was his contractor and did the work. Such things have happened.”

The Immature Pot

D: Is it possible to speak to Iswara as Sri Ramakrishna did?
M: When we can speak to each other why should we not speak to Iswara in the same way?
D: Then why does it not happen with us?
M: It requires purity and strength of mind and practice in meditation.

D: Does God become evident if the above conditions exist?
M: Such manifestation is as real as your own reality. In other words, when you identify yourself with the body as in jagrat you see gross objects; when in subtle body or in mental plane as in swapna, you see objects equally subtle; in the absence of identification as in sushupti you see nothing. The objects seen bear a relation to the state of the seer. The same applies to visions of God.

By long practice the figure of God, as meditated upon, appears in dream and may later appear in jagrat also.

D: Is that the state of God-realisation?
M: Listen to what happened once years ago.

Vithoba found Namdev had not yet realised the Supreme Truth and wanted to teach him. When Jnaneswar and Namdev returned from their pilgrimage, Gora Kumbhar gave a feast to all the saints in his place and among them were Jnaneswar and Namdev. At the feast Jnaneswar, in collusion with Gora, told Gora publicly, “You are a potter, daily engaged in making pots and testing them to see which are properly baked and which are not. These pots before you (i.e., the saints) are the pots of Brahma. See which of these are sound and which not.”

Thereupon Gora said, “Yes, Swami, I shall do so,” and took up the stick with which he used to tap his pots to test their soundness. Holding it aloft in his hand he went to each of his guests and tapped each on the head as he usually did to his pots. Each guest humbly submitted to such tapping. But when Gora approached Namdev, the latter indignantly called out, “You potter, what do you mean by coming to tap me with that stick?” Gora thereupon told Jnaneswar, “Swami, all the other pots have been properly baked. This one (i.e. Namdev) alone is not yet properly baked.” All the assembled guests burst into laughter.

Namdev felt greatly humiliated and ran up to Vitthala (the deity he worshipped) with whom he was on the most intimate terms, playing with him, eating with him, sleeping with him and so on. Namdev complained of this humiliation which had happened to him, the closest friend and companion of Vitthala. Vitthala (who of course knew all this) pretended to sympathise with him, asked for all the details of the happenings at Gora’s house and after hearing everything said, “Why should you not have kept quiet and submitted to the tapping, as all the others did? That is why all this trouble has come.” Thereupon Namdev cried all the more and said, “You also want to join the others and humiliate me. Why should I have submitted like the others? Am I not your closest friend, your child?” Vitthala said, “You have not yet properly understood the truth, and you won’t understand if I tell you. But go to the saint who is in a ruined temple in such and such a forest. He will be able to give you enlightenment.”

Namdev accordingly went there and found an old, unassuming man sleeping in a corner of the temple with his feet on a Sivalingam. Namdev could hardly believe this was the man from whom he – the companion of Vitthala – was to gain enlightenment. However, as there was none else there, Namdev went near the man and clapped his hands. The old man woke up with a start and seeing Namdev, said, “Oh – you are Namdev whom Vitthala has sent here. Come!” Namdev was dumbfounded and began to think, “This must be a great man.” Still he thought it was revolting that any man however great, should be resting his feet on a lingam. He asked the old man, “You seem to be a great personage. But is it proper for you to have your feet on a lingam?” The old man replied, “Oh, are my feet on a lingam? Where is it? Please remove my feet elsewhere.” Namdev removed the feet and put them in various places. Wherever they were put, there was a Sivalingam. Finally, he took them on his lap and he himself became a Sivalingam! Then he realised the truth and the old gentleman said, “Now you can go back.”

Bhagavan added, “It is to be noted that only when he surrendered himself, and touched the feet of his guru, enlightenment came. After this final enlightenment Namdev returned to his house and for some days did not go to Vitthala at the temple, though it had been his habit not only to visit Vitthala every day, but to spend most of his time with Vitthala at the temple. So, after a few days, Vitthala went to Namdev’s house and like a guileless soul, enquired how it was that Namdev had forgotten him and never visited him. Namdev replied, ‘No more of your fooling me. I know now. Where is the place where you are not! To be with you, should I go to the temple? Do I exist apart from you?’ Then Vitthala said, ‘So you now understand the truth. That is why you had to be sent for this final lesson’.”

Tapo Bhrashta

(Fallen from the state of tapas)

NAKKIRAR WAS DOING tapas on the bank of a tirtha. A leaf fell down from the tree; half the leaf touched the water and the other half touched the ground. Suddenly the water- half became a fish and the land-half became a bird. Each of them was united to the other by the leaf and struggled to go into its own element. Nakkirar was watching it in wonder and suddenly a spirit came down from above and carried him away to a cave where there were already 999 captives, all of whom were tapo bhrashtas.

Devotee: “Was Nakkirar a tapo bhrashta?”
Bhagavan: “Yes. While engaged in contemplation, why did he fall from contemplation and take to watching the mysterious happening in front of him? Nakkirar composed Tirumurukatruppadai and obtained the release of all the thousand prisoners.”

Yogi’s Penance

Bhagavan narrated the following story to illustrate the distinction between manolaya (stillness of mind) and manonasa (destruction of mind).

A YOGI WAS doing penance (tapas) for a number of years on the banks of the Ganges. When he had attained a high degree of concentration, he believed that to remain in that state for prolonged periods constituted salvation and therefore continued practising it. One day, before going into samadhi (a state of deep concentration), he felt thirsty and asked his disciple to bring some water for drinking from the Ganges; but before the disciple could return with the water, he had gone into samadhi, and he remained in that state for countless years. When he woke up from this experience, the first thing he did was to say, “water! water!”; but there was neither his disciple nor the Ganges in sight.

The first thing which he asked for was water because, before going into deep concentration, the topmost thought in his mind was about water; by concentration, however deep and prolonged it might have been, he had only been able to lull his thoughts temporarily; therefore when he revived consciousness this topmost thought flew up with all the speed and force of a flood breaking through the dykes. If this was the case with regard to a thought which took shape immediately before he sat for meditation, there is no doubt that other thoughts which had taken deeper root earlier would still remain unannihilated. If annihilation of thoughts is salvation, can he be said to have attained salvation? The moral is that one should not be taken away by the spell of temporary stillness but pursue the enquiry till the last vasana is eradicated.

Brahmin’s Curse

ONE DAY A sage called Pakanar was weaving a basket in front of his house. Hearing a loud voice chanting, “Hare Ram”, he asked his sister who it was that was chanting. His sister replied that it was a brahmin who is keeping his own daughter. Pakanar replied, “You are the hundredth person to repeat the scandal”. Meanwhile, the brahmin having come to that place, the sage told the brahmin that his curse was lifted and that he could return home. Later, he explained to his sister thus: “This brahmin was living with his widowed daughter. They were generous and kind-hearted. They would invite sadhus and feed them with love. On hearing of their generosity a sadhu came to visit them. He was well received and fed. The sadhu was immensely pleased with their devotion and decided to bless them.

He just glanced once and knew what was in store for them when they die. He called the brahmin and told him that after his death he would be tortured by a mountain of leeches in hell. On hearing this, the brahmin fell at his feet in terror and implored him for some means of escape. The sadhu told him, ‘Once while you were cooking food a leech fell from the roof into the cooking pot and died unobserved. You offered that food to a realised sage. Since whatever is given to a sage will be received back a thousand-fold a mountain of leeches are in store for you’.

The sadhu then advised the brahmin that in order to escape this fate he should conduct himself towards his grown- up widowed daughter in such a way, as to provoke a scandal that he was having illicit intimacy with her. He assured him that when a hundred persons had uttered the scandal the sin would leave him completely, having been distributed among the scandal-mongers. The brahmin did accordingly and you are the hundredth person to tell the scandal. So I say that the brahmin’s curse is now removed.”

Sri Bhagavan drew from the story the following moral: “Have the best intention, but act in such a way not to win praise, but to incur blame. Resist the temptation to justify yourself even when you are just.


KABIR WAS A great bhakta (devotee) who lived in or near Benares some centuries ago. Although he had siddhis (psychic powers), he earned his livelihood by weaving. One day, when he was working on his loom, a disciple entered in great excitement and said, “Sir, there is a juggler outside here who is attracting large crowds by making his stick stand in the air”.

Thereupon Kabir, who like all true saints, discouraged the display of jugglery, wanted to shame the man, and so rushed out with a big ball of thread in his hand. Seeing the long bamboo standing in the air, he threw his ball of thread up in the air. As the ball went up it unwound itself till the whole length of thread stood stiff in mid-air, and to a far greater height than the juggler’s stick, without any support whatever. The people, including the juggler himself, were stunned with amazement, and Sri Bhagavan’s eyes acted the amazement, while his hand stood high above his head in the position of Kabir when he threw up the ball.

Kamal, Son of Saint Kabir

A devotee asked, “Can the place between the eyebrows be said to be the seat of the Self?” Bhagavan replied, “The fact is that a sadhaka may have his experience at any centre or chakra on which he concentrates his mind. But, that particular place of his experience does not for that reason become ipso facto, the seat of the Self. There is an interesting story about Kamal, the son of Saint Kabir, which serves as an illustration to show that the head (and a part of the space between the eyebrows) cannot be considered the seat of the Self.”

KABIR WAS INTENSELY devoted to Sri Rama, and he never failed to feed those who sang the praise of the Lord with devotion. On one occasion, however, it so happened that he had not the wherewithal to provide food for a large gathering of devotees. For him, however, there could be no alternative except that he must somehow make every necessary arrangement before the next morning. So he and his son set out at night to secure the required provisions.

The story goes that after the father and son had removed the provisions from a merchant’s house through a hole they made in the wall, the son went in again just to wake up the household and tell them, as a matter of principle, that their house had been burgled. When, having roused the household, the boy tried to make good his escape through the hole and join his father on the other side, his body got stuck in the aperture. To avoid being identified by the pursuing household (because, if detected, there would be no feeding at all of the devotees the next day), he called out to his father and told him to sever his head and take it away with him. That done, Kabir made good his escape with the stolen provisions and his son’s head, which on reaching home was hidden away from possible detection.

The next day Kabir gave a feast to the bhaktas, quite unmindful of what had happened the previous night. “If it is Rama’s Will,” said Kabir to himself, “that my son should die, may it prevail!” In the evening after the feast, Kabir set out with his party as usual in procession into the town with bhajana, etc. Meanwhile, the burgled householder reported to the king, producing the truncated body of Kamal, which gave them no clue. In order to secure its identification, the king had the body tied up prominently on the highway so that whoever claimed it or took it away (for no dead body is forsaken without the last rites being given to it by the kith and kin) might be interrogated or arrested by the police, who were posted secretly for the purpose. Kabir and his party came along the highway with the bhajana in full swing when, to the astonishment of all, Kamal’s truncated body (which was considered dead as a door-nail) began to clap its hands, marking time to the tune sung by the bhajana party.

This story disproves the suggestion that the head or the place between the eyebrows is the seat of the Self. It may also be noted that when in the battlefield the head of a soldier in action is severed from the body by a sudden and powerful stroke of the sword, the body continues to run or move its limbs as in a mock fight, just for a while, before it finally falls down dead.

A devotee protested: “But Kamal’s body was dead hours before.” Bhagavan replied: “What you call death is really no extraordinary experience for Kamal. Here is the story of what happened when he was younger still.”

As a boy Kamal had a friend of equal age with whom he used to play games of marbles etc. A general rule they observed between themselves was that if one of them owed the other a game or two, the same should be redeemed the next day. One evening they parted with a game to the credit of Kamal. Next day, in order to claim “the return of the game”, Kamal went to the boy’s house, where he saw the boy laid on the verandah, while his relatives were weeping beside him. “What is the matter?” Kamal asked them. “He played with me last evening and also owes me a game.” The relatives wept all the more saying that the boy was dead. “No,” said Kamal, “he is not dead but merely pretends to be so, just to evade redeeming the game he owes me.” The relatives protested, asking Kamal to see for himself that the boy was really dead, that the body was cold and stiff. “But all this is a mere pretension of the boy, I know. What if the body be stiff and cold? I too can become like that.” So saying Kamal laid himself down and in the twinkling of an eye was dead.

The poor relatives who were weeping till then for the death of their own boy, were distressed and dismayed, and now began to weep for Kamal’s death also. But up rose Kamal on his back, declaring, “Do you see it now? I was as you would say dead, but I am up again, alive and kicking. This is how he wants to deceive me, but he cannot elude me like this with his pretensions.” In the end, the story goes, Kamal’s inherent saintliness gave life to the dead boy, and Kamal got back that was due to him. The moral is that the death of the body is not the extinction of the Self. The Self is not limited by birth and death, and its place in the physical body is not circumscribed by one’s experience felt at a particular place, as for instance between the eyebrows, due to practice of dhyana made on that centre. The supreme State of Self-awareness is never absent; it transcends the three states of the mind as well as life and death.

Mutual Curse

INDRA APPROACHED AHALYA (wife of Gautama) taking the form of Gautama and she yielded without knowing that he was not her husband. Without ascertaining the truth, Gautama cursed her to become a stone. Angered thereby Ahalya said, “Oh, you fool of a Muni! Without enquiring into the truth, you have cursed me and have not even stated when I shall be free from the curse. Tell me, when will the curse end and how? Why not have some consideration for me and tell me at least that?” Gautama thereupon told her that she would be released from the curse at the time of Rama avatar when the dust from Rama’s feet fell on her. Immediately thereafter she became a stone.

Gautama left that place and tried to get into his daily rituals but he could not, for he had no peace of mind. He tried his level best but could not control his mind and became more and more troubled. On thinking deeply over the matter, he realised that he had cursed his wife Ahalya without proper enquiry and also recollected that she had in turn cursed him by saying, “You fool of a Muni!” After all, she was also a great tapasvini (a female ascetic). Hence those words which were unusual must have resulted in an irrevocable curse on himself.

He therefore decided to seek the help of Iswara, by seeing his “Nataraja Dance”, in order to get relieved of the curse. He therefore went to Chidambaram. At that place he heard an ethereal voice saying, “I shall be pleased to give you darsan of my Thandava dance in Trisulapura.” Gautama immediately left that place and went on foot towards Trisulapura. On nearing the place, and at the mere sight of it, even from a distance, his mind began to get clear. He stayed there for a very long time doing tapas. At last Iswara was pleased and gave him darsan of his “Nataraja Dance” in the month of Dhanus when the Ardra star was predominant. It was at that time Gautama is reported to have lived under the tree and performed tapas. After seeing the dance of Iswara, Gautama worshipped Iswara, went to his original place and began to perform his rituals as usual.

Later on Ahalya became purified by the dust of the feet of Sri Rama and regained her normal form.

Devotee: “The statement that Ahalya turned into a stone applies only to her mind and not to her body. Is that not so?” Bhagavan: “That is so. If it is not for the mind, could it be for the body? It is only ordinary people that say her body turned into a stone and that Rama restored her to her original form by putting his foot on the stone. How is that possible? It only means that the mind lost its awareness of the Self, and unable to think of anything else, she became dull like a stone. That dullness got relieved by the darsan of a great personage. As she herself was a great tapasvini she could immediately become aware of the Self. She worshipped Sri Rama as the embodiment of the Self. This inner meaning could be found in the Ramayana. The moment Rama set his foot in Gautamasrama, the mind of Ahalya was restored to its original state, like the blossoming of a flower.”

The Lord Himself Comes

A new Tamil translation of Sankara’s Atmabodha with a commentary was sent to the Ashram. After glancing through it, Bhagavan sent it to the library. It was noticed that Bhagavan did not seem pleased with the translation.

Sending for a copy of Sankara’s Atmabodha from the library, Bhagavan began looking intently into it and after two days rendered two slokas into Tamil verse and showed them to the devotees. Overjoyed at seeing Bhagavan’s translation they asked him to finish the whole work. Although Bhagavan said, “Why, why?” he wrote some more saying, “though I feel disinclined to compose more verses, one after another comes and stands in front of me. What am I to do?”

Little by little the verses continued till all of them were translated. Addressing Sri Muruganar, Bhagavan with a smile said, “How is it I feel I have read this before? Is it possible that someone has already written this?” Muruganar answered, “No one has written it in venba metre. What surprise is there, if one verse after another occurs to Bhagavan. It is said that in every kalpa the Vedas appeared as though they were standing before Brahma. This also is like that.”

JAYADEVA’S STORY IS found in Panduranga Bhakta Vijayam.

After writing the Gita Govindam, Jayadeva wrote Bhagavatam also in Sanskrit. On hearing about that, Krauncha Raja appealed to Jayadeva to read the Gita Govindam in the durbar hall and so he began reading it. People who heard him were so impressed with the writing and with his discourses that his fame spread in all directions and people came in large numbers to hear him. His fame spread so far that Jagannatha Swami, the presiding deity of Puri, was eager to listen to him. So he started in the guise of a brahmin one day while the discourse was going on and entered the durbar hall of the king. After blessing the king, he said, “Sir, I am a resident of Gokula Brindavan. I am a pandit well versed in all sastras. I have been searching all the world over for someone who could discuss the sastras with me on equal terms but so far I have not found any one. I am therefore itching for a discussion. I learned that Jayadeva was with you and so I came here. Where is he?” and when the people pointed out Jayadeva to him, he said, disdainfully, “Oh! You are Jayadeva. Let me see. Let us discuss any one of the sastras you have studied,” and looking at him steadily, said, “What is that in your hands?”

Without waiting for a reply, he snatched the book from his hands and said, “Oho! This is Bhagavatam. So you are a Pauranika? (one who gives discourses on the epics). Who wrote this?” With fear and devotion Jayadeva said, “Sir, I am not a pandit to hold discussions with you. I humbly seek the blessings of elders like you. Though I do not have the courage to say before you that, I wrote this book, still as it will be a fault not to tell you the truth, I admit that I am its author.”

That brahmin pretended surprise and said, “What! If it is you who wrote it, tell me, how could I have learnt all its contents by heart?” So saying and without opening the book he began repeating the contents quickly, chapter by chapter. The king and the audience were amazed. Realising that Lord Jagannatha Himself had come in that form to shower his grace on him, Jayadeva prayed to him to reveal his real form (of Vishnu) with the conch, mace, chakra (discus) etc. Pleased with the stotras (prayers), Lord Jagannatha revealed Himself in the various forms in which Jayadeva had invoked Him in his stotras, blessed him and disappeared.

Photo of Jagannath Temple in Puri, Orissa courtesy hindunet.org

Deliverance of a Thorn Bush

One of the devotees who had heard of the verses written by Bhagavan about the deliverance of Lakshmi, the cow, approached Him and said, “Swami, we ourselves see that animals and birds are getting deliverance in your presence; but is it not true that only human beings can get moksha?” “Why? It is stated that a great saint gave moksha to a thorn bush,” said Bhagavan with a smile. The devotee eagerly asked who that great saint was and what was the story about the thorn bush.

IN CHIDAMBARAM, THERE was a jnani by the name of Umapathi Sivacharya. He was a poet and also a pandit. As he was in a transcendental state of spirituality (athita sthithi), he did not pay much attention to the usual brahminical practices. Hence, the dikshitars of the place became angry with him, especially since he was a learned man and knew all the precepts of the Hindu religion. They forbade him from living in the village or even visiting the temple. He therefore lived in a small hut built on a raised ground outside the village.

A low caste man called Pethan Samban used to supply him with all that he required and also helped him in a general way. As things went on like this, one day, when Pethan was carrying on his head a bundle of firewood to the hut, Iswara Himself met him on the way in the guise of the dikshitar in charge of the temple. He wrote a verse on a palmyra leaf and gave it to him, telling him that it was to be handed over to Umapathi Sivacharya, and then disappeared.

Pethan gave that verse to Sivacharya, who, on opening it, found in the first line itself the words, “Adiyarkkadiyen Chitrambalavanan” (the servant of the devotees, the Lord of Chidambaram). Immediately, he was overwhelmed with devotion and a thrill passed through his body as he read the letter. The gist of the verse was, “A note from Chidambaranathan, the servant of the devotees, to the person who has set up a new establishment, namely Sivacharya. It is your duty to give initiation to this Pethan Samban regardless of caste and to the surprise of all people.”

He read the letter and was overwhelmed with joy. In obedience to the orders of the Lord, he initiated Pethan into the order of sannyasa, though he belonged to the lowest caste. In due course he gave nayana diksha (transmission of Power through the eyes) to Pethan, immediately after which Pethan merged into holy light. Sivacharya himself was immensely surprised at this occurrence and only then understood the wisdom of Pethan.

Enemies of Sivacharya noticed the sacrificial offerings and other things he had for this initiation. They complained to the king that Sivacharya had burnt Pethan to death for some mistake, he might have committed. When the king came there with his retinue to enquire into the complaint, Sivacharya showed the verse of Lord Nataraja and said that he gave initiation to Pethan and that Pethan vanished thereafter in the form of a divine light (jyoti). The king was surprised and asked Sivacharya if he could likewise give initiation and moksha to the thorn bush nearby. “Yes. What doubt, is there?” said Sivacharya. Accordingly he gave nayana diksha to that thorn bush and that too immediately disappeared in pure light (jyoti).

The king was still more astonished at that and said, “This looks like some black magic. You said this note had been written by Lord Nataraja. Let us go and ask Him.” Sivacharya pointed out that there was a ban on his entering the temple. The king said that would not matter as he himself was accompanying Sivacharya. Accordingly they started for the temple together. Hearing all this, all the people – the pundits, the common people curious about the whole thing and enemies of Sivacharya who were sure he would be duly punished – flocked to the temple to see the strange sight. The two entered the temple. Out of regard for the king, when Arathi (waving of lights) was offered to Lord Nataraja, it was found that on either side of the Lord there stood Pethan and the thorn bush. The pundits were surprised and out of fear and remorse, fell at the feet of Sivacharya requesting him to pardon them for all their faults. They subsequently brought him back into the village with due honours.


Stories of the Hindu trinity Brahma Vishnu and Siva abound throughout the scriptural literature of India. Although these stories are both entertaining and enlightening Sri Bhagavan also gives a deeper meaning to them, he says, “Siva is the Being assuming all forms and the Consciousness seeing them. That is to say, Siva is the background underlying both the subject and the object. Everything has its being in Siva and because of Siva.”

Silence is the True Upadesa

Once a devotee came and said that the great sages of the past had travelled extensively preaching the Truth and thus had served the world at large. Similarly, if Bhagavan were to travel thus it would be beneficial to many. Smilingly Bhagavan replied that his being settled in one place was also beneficial and narrated the following story.

BRAHMA, THE LORD of Creation, once lost interest in the work of creation and thought of taking to a life of tapas. So, out of his mind he created Sanaka, Sanatkumara, Sanandana and Sanatsujata, with the intention to hand over to them his job in the course of time. They grew up and mastered all the branches of study. Brahma then decided to hand over to them his job and to retire. Sage Narada came to know of his father’s intention. Since Narada knew that his brothers were full of dispassion and fit to be initiated into the path of Self-knowledge, he decided to warn them beforehand of Brahma’s intention. On hearing this the four brothers, who had no intention to follow the path of action, left home in search of a guru without informing their father. They all proceeded to Vaikunta, the abode of Vishnu. There they saw Lakshmi sitting on Vishnu’s couch massaging His Feet. On seeing this they thought, “How can this family man bound by the intimate glance of his consort render us any help in learning adhyatma vidya. Look at the splendour of this palace and this city! This is enough. Let us seek the help of Lord Siva.” Lord Siva, who was in Kailas with His family, knew beforehand about their coming and understood their plight. He was sure that they would be disappointed on seeing Him with a family, so taking pity on them He decided to impart spiritual knowledge to them. The kind-hearted Lord left Mount Kailas and taking the youthful form of Dakshinamurti seated Himself with Chinmudra under a banyan tree on the Northern side of Lake Manasarovar, on the way by which these disappointed devotees were returning to their homes. When they came and sat before Him, He went into samadhi.

He was in Perfect Repose. Silence prevailed. They saw Him. The effect was immediate. They fell into samadhi and their doubts were cleared.

Silence is the true upadesa. It is the perfect upadesa. It is suited only for the most advanced. Others are unable to draw full inspiration from it. Therefore they require words to explain the Truth. But Truth is beyond words. It does not admit of explanation. All that is possible to do is only to indicate it.


The Self alone, the Sole Reality,
Exists for ever.

If of yore the First of Teachers
Revealed it through unbroken silence
Say, who can reveal it in spoken words?
Ekatma Panchakam, Sri Bhagavan.

Sri Bhagavan once told the story that follows to Sri Muruganar. This brings out the profound significance of the Supreme Silence in which the First Master, Sri Dakshinamurti is established.

Sri Bhagavan said, “When the four elderly Sanakadi rishis first beheld the sixteen-year-old Sri Dakshinamurti sitting under the banyan tree, they were at once attracted by Him, and understood that He was the real Sadguru. They approached Him, did three pradakshinas around Him, prostrated before Him, sat at His Feet and began to ask shrewd and pertinent questions about the nature of reality and the means of attaining it. Because of the great compassion and fatherly love (vatsalya) which He felt for His aged disciples, the young Sri Dakshinamurti was overjoyed to see their earnestness, wisdom and maturity, and gave apt replies to each of their questions. But as He answered each consecutive question, further doubts arose in their minds and they asked further questions. Thus they continued to question Sri Dakshinamurti for a whole year, and He continued to clear their doubts through His compassionate answers.

Finally, however, Sri Dakshinamurti understood that if He continued answering their questions, more doubts would arise in their minds and their ignorance (ajnana) would never end. Therefore, suppressing even the feeling of compassion and fatherly love which was welling up within Him, He merged Himself into the Supreme Silence. Because of their great maturity (which had ripened to perfection through their year-long association with the Sadguru), as soon as Sri Dakshinamurti assumed Silence, they too automatically merged into Supreme Silence, the true state of the Self.”

Wonderstruck on hearing Sri Bhagavan narrating the story in this manner, Sri Muruganar remarked that in no book was it mentioned that Sri Dakshinamurti ever spoke anything. “But this is what actually happened”, replied Sri Bhagavan curtly. From the authoritative way in which Sri Bhagavan replied and from the clear and descriptive way in which He told the story, Sri Muruganar understood that Sri Bhagavan was none other than Sri Dakshinamurti Himself!

Brahma’s Pride

A family came from a distant place to seek solace from the grief of losing six sons; the last child had recently died. As though Bhagavan had inspired the question, a devotee asked about using pranayama and other practices to prolong life to enable them to become realised souls, jnanis.

Bhagavan gently replied, “Yes, people do live long if they do these practices, but does a person become a jnani, a realised soul, by living long? A realised soul has really no love for his body. For one who is the embodiment of bliss, the body itself is a disease. He will await the time to be rid of the body.”

A devotee said, “Some people say we have lived for fifty years, what more is needed? As though living so long were a great thing!” “Yes,” said Bhagavan with a laugh, “that is so. It is a sort of pride and there is a story about it.”

IT SEEMS THAT in the olden days, Brahma once felt proud of the fact that he was long-lived. He went to Vishnu and said, “Do you not see how great a person I am! I am the oldest living person (chiranjeevi).” Vishnu told him that was not so and that there were people who had lived much longer than he. When Brahma said that could not be, since he was the creator of all living beings, Vishnu took him with him to show him people older than him.

They went along until, at a certain place, they found Romasa Mahamuni. Vishnu asked him his age and how long he expected to live. “Oho!” said Romasa, “you want to know my age? All right, listen then and I will tell you. This era (yuga) consists of so many thousands of years. All these years put together make one day and one night for Brahma. It is according to these calculations that Brahma’s life is limited to one hundred years. When one such Brahma dies, one of the hairs of my body falls out. Corresponding to such deaths as have already occurred, several of my hairs have fallen out, but many more remain. When all my hairs fall out, my life will be over and I shall die.”

Very much surprised at that, they went on to Ashtavakra Mahamuni, an ascetic with eight distortions in his body. When they told him about all the above calculations, he said that when one such Romasa Mahamuni dies, one of his own distortions would straighten, and when all the distortions had gone, he would die. On hearing this, Brahma was crestfallen. Similarly, there are many stories. If true realization is attained, who wants this body? For a Realised Soul who enjoys limitless bliss through realization of the Self, why this burden of the body?