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‘This fool came to Tiruvannamalai! Stupid man! What did he come here for?’


He carried on in this vein for some time, implying that I was wasting my time coming to Tiruvannamalai. I thought that I must have committed a great sin to have a great saint insult me like this. I started to cry because I thought that I had been cursed.


Eventually a man called Manikka Swami, who was Seshadri Swami’s attendant, came up to me and consoled me by saying, ‘Your trip to Tiruvannamalai will be successful. You will get whatever you have come for. This is Seshadri Swami’s way of blessing you. When he abuses people like this he is really blessing them.’


Manikka Swami then took me to a hotel which was owned by a devotee of Seshadri Swami.


He told the owner, ‘Seshadri Swami has just showered his blessings on this man. Please give him a free meal.’


I was not feeling particularly hungry, but when the owner insisted I sat down and ate some of his food. When I had eaten enough to satisfy him, I got up and walked the remaining distance to Sri Ramanasramam.


I arrived there at about 1 p.m. As I approached the hall, part of the dream I had had in my village repeated itself in real life. I saw Bhagavan walk down the hill, cross the ashram and pause outside the hall while he washed his feet with water from his kamandalu [water pot]. Then he went inside. I sprinkled some of this water on my head, drank a little, and then went inside to meet him. Bhagavan was sitting on his couch while an attendant called Madhava Swami dried his feet with a cloth. Madhava Swami went out a few minutes later, leaving Bhagavan and me alone in the hall. I had bought a small packet of dried grapes and some sugar candy to give him. I placed them on a small table that was next to Bhagavan’s sofa and prostrated to him. When I stood up I saw that Bhagavan was eating a little of my offering. As I watched him swallow, the thought came to me that my offering was going directly into Siva’s stomach.


I sat down and Bhagavan gazed at me in silence for about 10-15 minutes. There was a great feeling of physical relief and relaxation while Bhagavan was looking at me. I felt a wonderful coolness pervade my body. It was like immersing myself in a cool pool after being outside in the hot sun.


I asked for permission to stay and this was readily granted. A small hut was given to me and for the first week I stayed there as a guest of the ashram. During those first few days I either gathered flowers for the ashram’s pujas or just sat with Bhagavan in his hall.


As the days passed I became more and more convinced that Bhagavan was my Guru. Feeling a strong urge to settle down in the ashram, I asked Chinnaswami, Bhagavan’s younger brother, if I could work in the ashram. Chinnaswami granted my request and said that I could serve as Bhagavan’s attendant. At that time Madhava Swami was doing the job by himself.


Chinnaswami told me, ‘Madhava Swami is the only attendant at the moment. Whenever he goes out of the hall or goes for a rest you should stay with Bhagavan and attend to all his needs.’


About ten days after my arrival I asked Bhagavan, ‘How to avoid misery?’


This was the first spiritual question I ever asked him.


Bhagavan replied, ‘Know and always hold on to the Self. Disregard the body and the mind. To identify with them is misery. Dive deep into the Heart, the source of being and peace, and establish yourself there.’


I then asked him how I could attain Self-realisation and he gave me a similar answer: ‘If you give up identifying with the body and meditate on the Self, which you already are, you can attain Self-realisation.’


As I was pondering on these remarks Bhagavan surprised me by saying, ‘I was waiting for you. I was wondering when you would come.’


As a newcomer I was still too afraid of him to follow this up by asking him how he knew, or how long he had been waiting. However, I was delighted to hear him speak like this because it seemed to indicate that it was my destiny to stay with him.


A few days later I asked another question: ‘Scientists have invented and produced aircraft which can travel at great speeds in the sky. Why do you not make and give us a spiritual aircraft in which we can quickly and easily cross over the sea of samsara?’


Samsara is the seemingly endless cycle of birth and death through different incarnations. It can also be taken to mean worldly illusion or entanglement in worldly affairs.


‘The path of self-enquiry,’ replied Bhagavan, ‘is the aircraft you need. It is direct, fast and easy to use. You are already travelling very quickly towards realisation. It is only because of your mind that it seems that there is no movement. In the old days, when people first rode on trains, some of them believed that the trees and the countryside were moving and that the train was standing still. It is the same with you now. Your mind is making you believe that you are not moving towards Self-realisation.’



Annamalai Swami sitting in Palakottu

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Annamalai Swami sitting in Palakottu

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Annamalai Swami.jpg
Annamalai Swami.jpg

Annamalai Swami sitting on a rock near Palakottu

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Annamalai Swami sitting in Palakottu

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The slide show comprises images of Annamalai Swami taken during the last few years of his life.

David Godman Books


Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings

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