As she was saying this she gave me about one and a half tumblers of the ragi gruel to drink. It didn’t do much for my hunger pangs but I was still very happy to receive it. The long walk and the lack of food had made me very tired. As I sat there I began to question the wisdom of leaving Bhagavan. It was clear that things had not turned out in the way that I had expected. This indicated to me that the decision might not have been correct. I formulated a plan that I thought would test whether my decision had been correct or not. I took a large handful of flowers, placed them on the samadhi of Vitthoba and started to remove them two at a time. I had decided in advance that if there were an odd number of flowers I would return to Bhagavan. If there were an even number I would carry on with my original plan. When the result indicated that I should go back to Bhagavan, I immediately accepted the decision and started walking towards Tiruvannamalai.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I had accepted that my prarabdha [destiny] was to stay with Bhagavan, my luck began to change. As I was walking into town, a hotel owner invited me into his hotel and gave me a free meal and some money. He even prostrated to me. I had decided to return to Tiruvannamalai by train because I wanted to get back to Bhagavan as soon as possible, but before I could reach the station some more people invited me into their house and asked me to eat. I ate a little food there and then excused myself on the grounds that I had just eaten a big meal. I had decided to try to travel without a ticket, wrongly assuming that the money I had been given would not be enough for the journey. My good luck continued on the train. Halfway to Tiruvannamalai a ticket inspector came to inspect all the tickets. I seemed to be invisible to him, for I was the only person in the carriage who was not asked to produce a ticket.

 

A similar thing happened at the end of the journey. When I paused in front of the ticket collector on the station platform he said, ‘You have already given your ticket. Go! You are holding the others up!’

 

Thus, by Bhagavan’s grace, I escaped on both occasions. I walked the remaining distance to the ashram. On my arrival I went straight to Bhagavan, prostrated before him, and told him everything that had happened. Bhagavan then confirmed that it was my destiny to stay at Ramanasramam.

 

Looking at me he said, ‘You have work to do here. If you try to leave without doing the jobs that are destined for you, where can you go?’

 

After saying this Bhagavan looked at me intently for a period of about fifteen minutes. As he was looking at me I heard a verse repeating itself inside me. It was so loud and clear it felt as if someone had implanted a radio there. I had not come across this verse before. I only discovered later that it was one of the verses from Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham [one of Bhagavan’s philosophical poems which deals with the nature of reality]. The verse says:

 

The supreme state which is praised and which is attained here in this life by clear self-enquiry, which rises in the Heart when association with a sadhu is gained, is impossible to attain by listening to preachers, by studying and learning the meaning of the scriptures, by virtuous deeds, or by any other means.

 

Although the word ‘sadhu’ generally refers to someone who is pursuing a spiritual career full-time, in this context it means someone who has realised the Self.

 

The meaning was very clear: staying near Bhagavan would be more beneficial for me than doing sadhana alone in some other place.

 

At the end of the fifteen minutes I did namaskaram to Bhagavan and said, ‘I will do whatever work you order me to do, but please also give me moksha [liberation]. I do not want to become a slave to maya [illusion].’

 

Bhagavan made no reply but I was not perturbed by his silence. Somehow, the mere asking of the question had made my mind peaceful. Bhagavan then asked me to go and eat some food. I replied that I was not hungry because I had recently eaten.

 

I added: ‘I don’t want food. All I want is moksha, freedom from sorrow.’

 

This time Bhagavan looked at me, nodded, and said, ‘Yes, yes’.

 

This verse from Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham on the greatness of association with Self-realised beings is one of five on the subject which Bhagavan incorporated in the poem. He discovered the original Sanskrit verses on a piece of paper which had been used to wrap some sweets. He liked the ideas they conveyed so much he translated them into Tamil himself and put them at the beginning of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham. The other four verses are as follows:

 

By satsang [association with reality or, more commonly, with realised beings] the association with the objects of the world will be removed. When that worldly association is removed, the attachments or tendencies of the mind will be destroyed. Those who are devoid of mental attachment will perish in that which is motionless. Thus they attain jivan mukti [liberation while still alive in the body]. Cherish their association.

 

If one gains association with sadhus, of what use are all the religious observances? When the excellent cool southern breeze itself is blowing, what is the use of holding a hand-fan?

 

Heat will be removed by the cool moon, poverty by the celestial wish-fulfilling tree, and sin by the Ganges. But know that all these, beginning with heat, will be removed merely by having the darshan [sight] of incomparable sadhus.

 

Sacred bathing places, which are composed of water, and images of deities, which are made of stone and earth, cannot be comparable to those great souls [mahatmas]. Ah, what a wonder! The bathing places and deities bestow purity of mind after countless days, whereas such purity is instantly bestowed upon people as soon as sadhus see them with their eyes.

 

Several years after this incident Annamalai Swami asked Bhagavan about one of these verses:

 

We know where the moon is, and we know where the Ganges is, but where is this wish-fulfilling tree?’

 

‘If I tell you where it is,’ replied Bhagavan, ‘will you be able to leave it?’

 

I was puzzled by this peculiar answer but I didn’t pursue the matter. A few minutes later I opened a copy of Yoga Vasishta which was lying next to Bhagavan. On the first page I looked at I found a verse which said, ‘The jnani is the wish-fulfilling tree’. I immediately understood Bhagavan’s strange answer to my question. Before I had a chance to tell Bhagavan about this, he looked at me and smiled. He seemed to know that I had found the right answer. I told Bhagavan about the verse but he made no comment. He just carried on smiling at me.

 

 

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.

Left: Annamalai Swami standing outside the ashram kitchen and storeroom, both of which he built during the 1930s.

 

Right: Annamalai Swami with Major Chadwick

David Godman Books

 

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