சக்தி விகடன் - 22 Feb, 2011 part 1& 2  Revised June 21, 2018


Ramanamaharishi. The Secret of the Mountain

Author in Tamil: Balakumar

Tiruvannamalai is not a hillock. It is in a forested area with many stepwise hills, some small and some large. Two or three maintains join; in-between there are due south mountainsides with dense forests, waterfalls, brooks…, where there is no human habitation or visits.  When Bālaswāmy lived in those mountains, he realized many visions from the grace of God. He explained one such vision to his disciples.

Bālaswāmy narrated, “This happened when I lived in the Virūpāki cave. When I closed my eyes, I experienced a vision of walking north by myself on the mountaintop. I saw a garden abounding with flowers. In the middle of the garden, there were a huge temple,  a circumferential wall, and rock-carved Nandi. A wonderful beam of light pleasing to my eyes from somewhere came. The temple Puja bell was ringing. When the bell rang, the vision disappeared. At another time, a different vision appeared to me, when I was walking on the mountain. I saw a big cave.  I entered it and saw waterfalls, eyesome gardens with ponds in the middle, well laid out and maintained garden paths, and bright lights. What I saw were very pleasing.  As I walked on the path, I saw a Siddhapurua in the guise of Dakṣṇāmūrthy sitting under a tree near the lakeshore. Many Munis were sitting before him. He answered their questions. That place appeared very familiar to me.  That was the end of my vision and I opened my eyes.

Bālaswāmy regarded Aṇṇāmalai as his property; it is customary for him to walk freely on the mountainside, as and when he pleased.  There is no place which has not heard his footfall. Not considering day or night, he left his place wandering on the mountains. He found a cave on one of his jaunts. When he approached the cave, the cave grew larger. As he entered the cave, it grew even larger.  Groves (and trees) were on both sides. The path took him to a lake with a temple in the middle.

Bālaswāmy narrated many visionary episodes to his disciples.  Devarāja Mudaliar addressed him, “Is it not a dream?” Bālaswāmy replied, “Dream or Vision, take your pick.”

Tiruvannamalai is replete with secrets.  That mountain was home for a multitude of Siddhapuruṣars.  Its secrets remain secrets to this day. Only a few endeavour to pry open its secrets. The few visionaries kept silent without revealing their visions.

But, Bālaswāmy frequently revealed his many secrets to his disciples. He was friendly to ordinary people and lived a life of love and support.

Ecchammāl lived in Mandakulatthūr near Pōḷḷūr. Ecchumi is a corrupt linguistic form of Lakṣmī and latter it became Ecchammāl, an honorific rendition of Lakṣmī. Her personal life was cursed. She before reaching the age of 20, lost her husband, her son and her daughter. It was a huge blow for an ordinary woman with nil support. Having lost everything (that was dear to her), she stood there as a lone tree. It was a state of grief even for the educated. The uneducated Ecchammāl felt a sense of ruination.

The school was across the street from her home. Memories of her children attending the school came to her mind often. The agony of loss of a heaven of family life troubled her mind and soul. However much she beat herself and cried, the wound never healed and the grief boiled over.

She went to north India to serve the Sadhus with a hope and a prayer her mind will become tranquil. She thought her sins of the past life would be expunged and the future life on earth would be pleasant and trouble-free. Her service to them brought no relief. The Sadhus were grief-stricken hearing her tragic stories. They felt helpless to offer her solace.

Once, her relatives brought up the subject of Tiruvannamalai Bālaswāmy and enjoyed seeing him bring solace to them.  Lakshmi Ammāl known as Ecchammāl desired to receive Darśan of Bālaswāmy.  Losing no time, she went to Tiruvannamalai, stayed with a friend and made a trip for the Darśan of Bālaswāmy. She had Darśan of Bālaswāmy at the Virūpāki cave.  But, she did not narrate to him her story of loss and grief. Bālaswāmy did not ask for her story. She stood before him for one hour.  Later, as she was going down the hill, her grief dissipated and disappeared. She told her friend joyously about her visit to Bālaswāmy and the Darśan. She was exhilarated her grief was behind her. Again, she went to Bālaswāmy for Darśan.  She, now free of mental anguish, shared her life story of death and deprivation with others.

Ecchammāl, upon enquiry by relatives on how peace prevailed in her, replied, “I worship Bālaswāmy. I am devoted to him.  Because of him, my grief was behind me.” From that day onwards, for 38 years, she cooked for Bālaswāmy and the group of devotees around Bālaswāmy. She ate the leftovers. When her father (4th death in the family) died, her brothers sent her share of the property in cash. Lakshmi Ammāl spent that money in the service of the devotees.

Good or bad, she confided everything to Bālaswāmy. He was very understanding and compassionate to her. Since she did not have her own biological children, she adopted and nurtured her brother’s daughter Sellammāl, who upon maturity got married, paid for by Lakshmi Ammāl. One day a telegram arrived from her village that Sellammāl died (the 5th death). She was ill, but no information reached her regarding her health. Lakshmi Ammāl (Ecchammāl) told Bālaswāmy about the death with tears rolling down her face. Grieving her loss, Bālaswāmy also cried and shed tears, which comforted Lakshmi Ammāl. She knowing the vicissitudes of life reconciled to the death of her adopted daughter.

Bālaswāmy assumed her grief by Āvāhana, suffered, shed tears like her, and consoled her without uttering a word. This is compassion soaked in compassion.  The grieved person stops grieving on witnessing a divine man cry for her and her loss.

‘Are you crying for me? I am back to my own self. I am at peace. See me now. Please don’t shed any more tears. Forgetting this event completely, I will go about doing my daily chores,’ said Lakshmi Ammāl without so many words. A majestic bearing took the place of her grief. When there is an inundation of Guru’s love, the internal grief vanishes and exultation takes its place.

Ecchammāl took a spiritual hold of Bālaswāmy firmly.  By every move, she revealed he was her Guru. She was not a mere cooking Māmi (Brahmin woman). She did Sādhanas. As instructed by a north Indian anchorite, she focused on Bhrūmadya (middle of the forehead) and maintained silence. She witnessed a wonderful light in her Bhrūmadya often. Unmindful of body consciousness, she maintained immobility and Dhyana for hours.  (Sanskrit Bhru, Tamil Puruvam [புருவம்] and English Brow are cognate.)

When Bhagavan’s disciples narrated their observation, he offered no opinions. When Ecchammāl mentioned to him about her internal visions, he advised her, “Internal visions are unnecessary. You must discover who you are. That is important.”

  Ecchammāl made a vow she will dedicate 100,000 Bael leaves for the puja before the pictures of Śeshādri Swamy and Bālaswāmy.  She informed Bālaswāmy about it. He expressed no opposition to her proposal. There was a daily Puja. One day, no Bael leaves were available. Ecchammāl told Bālaswāmy, “There are no bael leaves to nip and pinch for the puja.” Swamy observed, “You should nip yourself for the puja.”

Ecchammāl as a child observed, “Pinch myself, it will hurt.” Bālaswāmy said to her, “As pinching hurts you, nipping hurts the tree. Why do you nip the leaves?

In an anxious guilt-ridden burst, she said, “Why did you not tell me about this before?  I would not have done it.“ He said with a smile, “You think it hurts to pinch you and nipping leaves does not hurt. You need another person to tell you this!” That day, she gave up the Bael leaf Puja. Puja is not pinching the leaves, plucking the flowers, decorating the deity with flowers and garlands and serving Naivēttiyam. One should look inside, find where the thoughts originate and who is inside. If one does not consider these, exoteric worship is a waste. This is clear Siddhāntam of Bālaswāmy.

He did not use drums, gongs, and bugles to announce his precepts, did not make them as injunctions but lived them.  By his life, he demonstrated with no words the highest object. The silent teaching is one should know oneself and make a self-enquiry continuously.  Instead of indulging in long and windy discourses, Bālaswāmy’s life of teaching by silence impressed the souls of many devotees. They blossomed.

A multitude of false prophets saying, ‘I will teach,’ disappeared into thin air. His Upadeśa emerged as an effulgent light. He still touches the lives of many devotees as Bālaswāmy, turned SriRamana Maharishi. His teachings with few words have sent multitudes of people in the path of virtue.


சக்தி விகடன் - 22 Feb, 2011 (part 2)

Kanchi Mahan, the deity of mercy

Author: Sarukesi

What Maha Periyava thinks at a moment is unfathomable by anyone. "What he thinks, he brings to fruition through his devotees," said Kārttikēyan.

Some Andhra devotees desired to honor and grace him with a diamond-studded gold crown during Pītārōhaam (Ascent to his seat, akin to papal throne) on the diamond jubilee. They wanted to collect 200,000 rupees as donation to the Kanchi Mutt. They came to Kanchi Mutt to obtain his permission.

They received Darśan of Swamy, and paying homage, slowly raised the subject of their intent to contribute. Immediately, Periyava said, “Stop collecting money.” Those words were not tinged with harshness, but there was firmness. That too, he said it in Telugu, their language.

A Madāthipathi (the head of the Mutt) standing far away from the strength and corrupting influence of money or men, can aspire for recognition and respect in the community on the strength of Tapas and conduct. A sannyasi must remain unbound by possessions. He has no town to claim his; he wanders from town to town, under Sāstraic injunctions.

Sadhus and Sannyasis as Dharmāchāriars do what they must do. They must have an establishment to run the affairs. Madāthipathi’s responsibility is as follows: We should hoard nothing beyond our needs. Because we need that self-discipline, we keep a sharp eye on the ledger books. It is not just enough to have administrative ability to run the Mutt; a mental strength to submit oneself to checks and balances is necessary.

The Kanchi Mutt faced financial hardship in the past. The resident God Sri Chandramaulīsvarar graced us with enough grains for our use.  Sometimes we have surplus grains and feel that God may be putting us through tests. As the money accumulates, I allot the money for a needy public service. I am running the Mutt with as little surplus as possible. I exercise a great care to that end. Now we have cash to meet our obligations. I feel I should not take in more cash. There are very many needs for the money received at the Mutt. If we endeavor on a campaign, it will amount to Suyapāththiyam (சுயபாத்தியம் = ceremonial washing of one’s own feet). Instead of doing a deed forcibly, the same good deeds can be performed through the mediation of Satsañg (Association of the virtuous), establishments… The Mutt should not go beyond giving advice.  The devotees from Andhra listened to Periyava intently.

Periyava continued. “Therefore, don’t collect money by hundreds of thousands.  When we decide in the Mutt to undertake a big project, I will ask you with no shame (hesitation) for the funds. Don’t be unhappy that your endeavour has been stopped. Your mind and ardor are known to me well. I bestow on you my blessings. Listening to the explanation from Periyava, the Andhra devotees were moved. They were not sure what to do with cash on hand. They expressed their confusion to Periyava.

Periyava asked, how much have you collected so far?”

Devotees said, “60,000 rupees.”

“Sixty fits with the other sixty.” Periyava laughed like a child.  “Sixty thousand rupees for Pīdāthipathya 60th Anniversary. Ambal has sent you here and asks you to stop collecting any more funds. Keep the money you have.  I will take the money when I need it.”  He said it with love, understanding and compassion. The devotees mentioned about the diamond crown and pleaded with him to accept it.

Does Periyava not know their mind? With affection, he nodded his head in acceptance. He considered that an anchorite should not wear a golden crown and asked them to place the new crown on the Rudrāksha crown he wears for evening worship.

Fifteen days later, Periyava ordered 60,000 rupees sent by the Andhra devotees for Gita-upadeśa exhibition in Kurukṣetra, and a marble statue for the Acharya of Gitabhāṣyam. The devotees sent the funds. Does it mean Periyava accepted the diamond crown placed on the Rudrāka crown? It is certainly not so. What then?

Mahāperiyava had a great respect for Māmaṉṉan Rājarājasōzha (Rāja-rāja-sōzhaṉ = King of kings, Cholan, 985 CE-1012CE), who built a temple for Sri Brahathīsvarar in Tanjai and instituted the daily chanting of Devāra Thirumaai, compiled by him from various sources. The king’s 1000-year anniversary took place in 1984. For one to be called a king, wearing of crown is essential. Besides, this king is a Śivapādasēkharaṉ (Śiva-pāda-sēkharaṉ = Śiva-Foot-Eminent Person = King who took refuge at the feet of Śiva). He had the feet of Śiva on his crown. We must crown him, said Periyava. To crown the king, he made certain changes in the crown. Indra Gandhi had the honor of crowning Rājasōzaṉ. This was a great event, when Chandrasekhara himself applied the crown on the head of Śivapāthasēkharan.

Mahāperiyava made it possible the 60,000 rupees and the crown offered to him as personal gifts, to go to public service projects.

(Rājarājasōzha: During his reign, the texts of the Tamil poets Appar, Sambandar and Sundarar were collected and edited into one compilation called Thirumurai.-Wikipedia)

Darśan to be continued.

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