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Living by the Words of Bhagavan




This is an extract from the first chapter of Living by the Words of Bhagavan. The words in roman are Annamalai Swami's. The explanations of philosophical or cultural topics that appear as paragraphs in italics are my editorial comments:



Sometime in 1928, when I was twenty-one years old, a wandering sadhu passed through the village. He gave me a copy of Upadesa Undiyar that contained a photo of Sri Ramana Maharshi. As soon as I saw that photo, I had the feeling that this was my Guru. Simultaneously, an intense desire arose within me to go and see him.


Upadesa Undiyar is a thirty-verse philosophical poem written by Ramana Maharshi in Tamil. It was first published in 1927, about a year before Annamalai Swami got to see it. Upadesa Saram is Sri Ramana’s Sanskrit rendering of the same work. Some of the English translations which appear under the title Upadesa Saram are actually translations of Upadesa Undiyar, the original Tamil work.


That night I had a dream in which I saw Ramana Maharshi walking from the lower slopes of Arunachala to the old hall. At the threshold of the old hall he washed his feet with the water that was in his water pot. I came near him, prostrated at his feet, and then went into a kind of swoon because the shock of having darshan was too much for me. As I was lying on the ground with my mouth open, Bhagavan poured water from his pot into my mouth. I remember repeating the words ‘Mahadeva, Mahadeva’ [one of the names of Siva] as the water was being poured in. Bhagavan gazed at me for a few seconds before turning to go into the hall.


The terms ‘hall’ and ‘old hall’ refer to the building in which Sri Ramana lived and taught between 1928 and the late 1940s. Bhagavan is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘Lord’. Most devotees addressed Sri Ramana as ‘Bhagavan’. They would also use this title when they referred to him in the third person.


When I woke the next morning I decided that I should go immediately to Bhagavan and have his darshan. After informing my parents that I was planning to leave the village, I went to the Bhajan Math to say goodbye to all the people there. Several of them began to cry because they had a strong suspicion that I would not return. I asked for their permission to leave, received it, and left the village that evening. I never went back. Some of the devotees, realising that I had no funds to support myself, collected some money and gave it to me as a parting present.


I had decided to walk twenty-five miles to a nearby town called Ullunderpettai because I had heard that there was a train from there to Tiruvannamalai, the town where Ramana Maharshi lived. However, before I began my journey, a convoy of twelve bullock carts passed through the village on their way to Ullunderpettai. The devotees in the village talked to one of the cart drivers and arranged for me to get a ride in his cart. The journey took all night but I was much too excited to sleep. I spent the entire night sitting in the cart, thinking about Bhagavan.


In Ullunderpettai I shared my food with the cart drivers before boarding the train for Tiruvannamalai. I had originally intended to go straight there, but when one of the passengers informed me that the Sankaracharya was camping near one of the towns on the train route, I decided to see him first and get his blessings. I got down at Tirukoilur [fifteen miles south of Tiruvannamalai] and made my way to Pudupalayam, the village where the Sankaracharya was staying. I found the Sankaracharya, did namaskaram to him and told him that I had had his darshan in Vepur.


A namaskaram is either a prostration or a gesture of respect in which one puts the palms of one’s hands together with the thumbs on the breastbone. Whenever the term occurs in this book it is used in the former sense.


The Sankaracharya gazed at me for a few seconds. Then, with a smile of recognition he said, ‘Yes, I remember you’.


‘I am on my way to see Ramana Bhagavan,’ I told him. ‘Please give me your blessings.’


The Sankaracharya seemed very pleased to hear the news. ‘Very good!’ he exclaimed.


He turned to one of his attendants and asked him to give me some food. After I had finished eating, the Sankaracharya put some vibhuti on a plate and put his palm on it to bless it. He then put half a coconut and eleven silver coins on the plate and presented it to me. I took the money, the vibhuti and the coconut before returning the plate to him.


Feeling that I had now got the blessings which I had sought, I prostrated to him, left the village, and continued my journey to Tiruvannamalai. On my arrival in Tiruvannamalai I was told that there was another great saint there called Seshadri Swami and that it would be very auspicious if I could have his darshan before proceeding to Sri Ramanasramam, the ashram where Ramana Maharshi lived.

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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