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Most of Bhagavan’s devotees left the area within a few days of the funeral, but since I had no urge to go anywhere, I remained in my room in Palakottu. In the weeks and months that followed, my health began to deteriorate. I spent most of my time in my room in a state of deep samadhi in which it was impossible for me to pay any attention to the body’s needs. When the girl who cooked for me brought me my midday meal, I often ignored it. Sometimes I ate it, but mostly I gave it back to the girl to eat herself.
After several weeks of living like this, my body began to waste away. I started to get attacks of dizziness when I stood up and my digestive system started to malfunction. One attack of food poisoning left me so weak, I discovered I didn’t even have the strength to pull a bucket of water out of the Palakottu tank. When I put the bucket in the water and pulled, the weight of the water pulled me into the tank. In my weakened state I was lucky to survive at all. One sadhu I knew succumbed to cholera and died, and there was an epidemic of malaria in the area that was also claiming many lives.
I ignored all these events and continued to sit quietly in my room. While I was inside I only ever wore a kaupina, but none of the thousands of mosquitoes that shared the room with me ever bothered to bite me. The only other occupant of the room was a squirrel that used to sit on my lap when I was in samadhi. I used to keep some peanuts near me, and whenever I emerged from samadhi, the squirrel would eat a few out of my hand.
News of my weakened condition reached my relatives in Gudur. Despite our previous quarrels they were still concerned about me. They asked me to return to Gudur where I could be properly looked after, but I refused to leave. Sometime later my mother and brother came to visit for a few days. When they discovered the extent to which I was neglecting my body, they renewed their attempts to get me to come back to Gudur. My brother offered to build a hut for me where I could live alone and also undertook to provide me with food. I again refused, saying that I didn’t want to leave Arunachala.
I spent a total of nine months in Palakottu, mostly just sitting quietly in my room. Towards the end of this period my skin turned yellow and it stayed that way for the next three years. Around October 1950 I finally admitted to myself that I was no longer capable of looking after my body. I had no one to take care of me, and I was never aware of my body for long enough to do the job myself. Reluctantly, I decided that I would accept my brother’s offer, go back to Gudur and let my family look after me.
Lakshmana Swamy in 1951. The photo was taken after he left Tiruvannamalai and returned to his home town of Gudur.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings
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