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This time Ramanatha obeyed the order, fed his father and returned to Virupaksha Cave with the remaining food. I mention this story only because it shows how great his devotion to Bhagavan was and how little he cared about anything else, including his own family.






















Ramanatha Brahmachari used to feed Bhagavan with such love and devotion, Bhagavan felt he had been captured by his love. That is why Bhagavan said on one occasion, ‘I am only afraid of two devotees, Ramanatha Brahmachari and Mudaliar Patti’.


It was not physical fear, it was more a feeling of helplessness. If a devotee has a strong, burning love for his Guru, the Guru is compelled to do anything that the devotee asks. Bhagavan always felt apprehensive whenever Ramanatha Brahmachari appeared because he knew he would not be able to resist any of his requests. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once expressed the same idea when he said: ‘When you have attained ecstatic love, you have found the rope to tie God with.’


A few years after the ashram moved to the foot of the hill, Chinnaswami and Ramanatha Brahmachari had some sort of quarrel. I don’t know what it was all about but the end result was that Ramanatha Brahmachari was banned from eating or sleeping in the ashram. An advocate in town, Neelakanta Sastri, came to his rescue by volunteering to feed him.


He told Ramanatha Brahmachari, ‘Don’t worry about your food. From now on you can come to my house every day. I have photos of Bhagavan and Vinayaka. If you do a daily puja to both of these pictures, I will give you breakfast and lunch in my house. You can also take whatever is left over from lunch in a tiffin carrier to eat as your evening meal.’


After his exclusion from the ashram Ramanatha Brahmachari built himself a tiny hut in Palakottu. He had been attracted to some of Gandhi’s ideas even while Bhagavan was still living on the hill. In addition to spinning cotton, a must for all Gandhians in those days, he had a great attraction to the idea of service. When he moved to Palakottu he performed seva [service] by cleaning the huts of all the sadhus who lived there and by doing all their shopping for them. Before he went to town he would ask all the sadhus in Palakottu if they needed anything. Invariably he would return with whatever had been requested. Because of all these activities Kunju Swami gave him the nickname ‘Palakottu Sarvadhikari’ [The Supreme Ruler of Palakottu].


Ramanatha Brahmachari was willing to do anything for the Palakottu sadhus. Some people took advantage of this by giving him trivial or unpleasant tasks to complete but he never complained. I remember one occasion when somebody in Palakottu asked him to go to town and read all the posters that had been pasted to the walls. He was supposed to come back with a report on the details of each poster. Ramanatha Brahmachari did this job in the same spirit that he did all his other jobs: joyfully and with love. He wasn’t in the least offended that his helpfulness and generosity were being abused. Since he had no ego that could take offence, he could carry out futile jobs such as these in a spirit of service, without being irritated by the motives of the people who were wasting his time. Because of his strange appearance and because of his odd character and personality traits, many people ridiculed him and teased him. Most of these people were misled by his eccentric appearance and idiosyncratic activities to such an extent they couldn’t see the love that bound him to Bhagavan and Bhagavan to him.


Bhagavan gave him his grace when he was still a teenaged boy, and Ramanatha Brahmachari repaid this with lifelong service to both Bhagavan and his devotees. In performing all his tasks with humbleness and joy, and in serving Bhagavan with great love and devotion, he was an outstanding example of what a good devotee ought to be.


Since Ramanatha Brahmachari was an ardent Gandhian, when Mahatma Gandhi announced that he intended to make and collect salt illegally, as a protest against British rule, Ramanatha Brahmachari decided that he should follow his example. At the time, the British rulers of India levied a tax on salt. Gandhi’s idea was to take thousands of his followers to a beach in western India where sea water was commercially evaporated. The demonstrators would then manufacture and collect untaxed salt there as a gesture of collective defiance to British rule. The British were informed in advance, so there was a strong possibility that the salt march would end violently. Gandhians in other parts of India, who could not make the long trip to Gujarat, were encouraged to have their own local protests. Ramanatha Brahmachari joined a South Indian salt march that was led by Rajagopalachari, a leading Congress politician. The destination was Vedaranyam, a southern coastal town.


When Ramanatha Brahmachari informed Bhagavan that he wanted to go on this march, Bhagavan laughed and remarked, ‘The police will be afraid of you. They will run away when they see you.’


Ramanatha Brahmachari went on the march and managed to avoid being arrested. In fact, he was completely ignored by all the police. On his return he presented Bhagavan with some of the salt he had made and collected.


Ramanatha Brahmachari, back row, second from the left. Annamalai Swami is to his right.


On Bhagavan's left, with folded arms, is Ramaswami Pillai. Kunju Swami is to his left.


Bhagavan's brother, Chinnaswami, is seated to his left. T. P. Ramachandra Iyer is seated to his right.

David Godman Books


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

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