Scene 3: The nature of the state of firm consciousness
The state of firm consciousness [sthitaprajna], extolled highly in the Bhagavad Gita, was normal and effortless to Bhagavan. Therefore, like the sunstone that absorbs heat because of the mere presence of the sun, many thousands of devotees attained the state of Self-abidance by merely having the darshan of Bhagavan. Many intimate devotees knew this from their own experience. The multitude of devotees sanctified by Bhagavan’s darshan included many animals too.
9 Supreme tranquillity experienced even by birds and beasts
That even ‘lower’ life forms such as birds and beasts can attain the supreme state through the grace of the great ones [maha purushas] was explicitly demonstrated by Bhagavan through the following incident. Bhagavan, ever shedding grace by remaining in the meditative state of Self-abidance, once externalised his attention, turned towards his devotees with a smile, and suddenly asked the following question.
‘Do you know what state Lakshmi is in now?’
Having never witnessed such a scene before, the devotees were puzzled by this unusual question. There was a cow standing in front of him with a motionless and fixed expression on her face.
The ever-cheerful Bhagavan said, to the astonishment of the devotees, ‘She is in nirvikalpa samadhi,’ revealing by this brief comment the extraordinary power of his grace.
The cow, affectionately called Lakshmi, was closely associated with the ashram. When she came, as usual, for Bhagavan’s darshan and stood in his presence, Bhagavan looked at her with great affection and started stroking her head. As a consequence of receiving this hasta-diksha [initiation in which the Guru places his hands on the disciple’s head] she experienced immediately the state of nirvikalpa samadhi.
Although it is common to come across many human beings with bestial natures, it is extremely rare to see an animal with human nature.
Bhagavan himself once pointed out the sanctity of Lakshmi by saying ‘We don’t know what austerities she has performed in her previous births. It may be that she is in our midst only to complete her unfinished tapas!’
After her nirvana, her body was entombed within the ashram premises in the presence of Bhagavan. It was done in the traditional manner, and a memorial was built on top. Among all those who took refuge in Bhagavan, only Lakshmi had the good fortune of having an epitaph written by Bhagavan himself, confirming her liberation. This is what Bhagavan wrote on that occasion: ‘Lakshmi the cow was liberated under the star of visaka on Friday, the twelfth day of the bright half of jyesta in the year sarvadhari [18th June 1948].’
Among the fortunate animals that were the recipients of Bhagavan’s grace, there were others such as dogs, peacocks, squirrels and crows. Indeed, the life history of each one of them is wonderful. When it is seen that even animals attained mental quiescence by the extraordinary power of Bhagavan’s presence, will it not be superfluous to say that human beings attained the same? During the half century of his manifestation as grace divine at Arunachala, innumerable were the instances and infinite were the ways in which Bhagavan showered his grace on all those who approached him.
Scene 4: The nature of observance of dharma
10 Two exalted persons who captivated the entire world
Many great people have appeared in this world to show the way to life divine. Chief among the paths that lead to supreme bliss and which have been prescribed by these sages are karma yoga and jnana yoga. Mahatma Gandhi and Maharshi Ramana, who appeared in our generation, belong to this line of illustrious people. These two, who lived as storehouses of divine traits such as truth, non-violence, love, sacrifice and tapas, exemplified respectively karma yoga in a householder’s life and jnana yoga as a sannyasin. In their different ways they set the people of the world on the right path. After Swami Vivekananda it was these two who made this blessed land of Bharat famous throughout the world by demonstrating in their lives her ancient cultural and spiritual values. Both of them symbolised self-sacrifice and firm awareness, which are highly extolled as the truth of life and as the essence of the Upanishads by persons such as Acharya Vinobha Bhave. They are the immortal lights, shining like the moon and the sun. The remark of the renowned physicist Einstein regarding Mahatma – ‘Future generations will find it hard to believe that such a man ever walked on the earth’ – is equally applicable to Bhagavan also.
Though Sri Ramana indicated the truth by always abiding in the Self as pure consciousness, he did, at the same time, appear to many in their visions as God incarnate.
Sadhu Natanananda, taken in the garden of his Ramana Nagar home in the 1970s.
David Godman Books
Books by David Godman on Ramana Maharshi, his devotees and his teachings