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Though I never sought to attract Bhagavan’s attention, he always seemed to know if I was in his vicinity, even if he couldn’t see me. On an earlier occasion, when Bhagavan was giving darshan in the new hall, his view of me was completely obscured by a newspaper that one of his attendants was holding. He immediately asked the attendant to remove the newspaper and then beamed his usual smile at me.
As the darshan hours became less and less, I began to spend more and more time sitting quietly in my room. I did pradakshina of Arunachala once a week, and I still sat on the mountain every evening, but my life was beginning to enter a new phase. I would spend hours and hours each day sitting in my room in a thought-free state in which I had no awareness of either my body or the world. This tendency to withdraw into the Self became stronger and stronger as the weeks and months went by.
By April 1950 it was clear to everyone that Bhagavan was about to give up his body. The cancer had debilitated him to such an extent, he could barely move. About a week before his death I was walking around the Mother’s Temple, the one which was being consecrated on my first visit to the ashram. On my way round I stopped to look at a statue of Ganesh that had been recently garlanded. As I gazed at the statue, it began to move in its niche. The head and shoulders started to rock backwards and forwards, and each time it rocked forwards, the bowed head of Ganesh moved nearer and nearer to mine. I suddenly realised that if I stayed there any longer, the garland would slip from the statue’s neck onto my own. I didn’t want to be garlanded in this way, so I moved away from the statue and continued my walk around the temple.
A week later, on the evening of April 14th, I was cleaning my room in Palakottu when a picture of Bhagavan, which was normally kept on a stool in the corner of the room, fell to the ground. I put it back in its usual place, making sure that it was not in a position that would cause it to overbalance again. A few minutes later it fell to the ground for a second time. I felt intuitively this was a sign that Bhagavan was dead or dying. I felt a strong urge to go to the ashram, but before I could leave I lost awareness of the world and I became wholly absorbed in the Self for a period of about two or three hours. Consciousness of the world returned shortly before 9 p.m. when I heard a great noise coming from the ashram. I knew then for certain that Bhagavan was dead. I rushed to the back gate of the ashram, the nearest gate to his room, only to find that the police had already locked it.
By the time I made my way into the ashram by the front gate, Bhagavan’s body had already been removed from the room where he had died. It had been put on display outside it. Later that night, when most of the grieving devotees had left, it was taken inside the new hall.
I had seen Bhagavan for the last time earlier that day. On that occasion, as we looked into each other’s eyes, I experienced such a strong wave of ecstatic bliss, I became completely oblivious of my surroundings. Now, seeing Bhagavan’s lifeless body, I experienced very little emotion. People were crying all around me and my first reaction was that I too should shed a few tears for my Guru. But no tears came. I was unhappy that Bhagavan had died, but at the same time I was unable to cry or participate in the sorrow of the other devotees because I knew that nothing had really happened. I knew that Bhagavan was the Self before he gave up the body and I knew that he was the same Self afterwards. Filled with this awareness that nothing had really happened, I left the thousands of grieving devotees and silently returned to my room.
This is the corner of Palakottu where Lakshmana Swamy stayed between 1950 and 1951.
The man in the foreground in Munagala Venkataramaiah, the compiler of Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi. The hut on the right, behind the tree, may be the one that Lakshmana Swamy stayed in.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings
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