Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Fortunate Boy

Taken from Silent Power: Chapter 36:

to all as a great Saint. But only a few know of his
philanthropy and humanitarianism. Still fewer are those who
experienced his paternal and maternal affection.

Of all these one boy alone had the most enviable
opportunity of sleeping with Bhagavan and enjoying such
paternal treatment. One and only one had that golden privilege.

This was in 1920. Bhagavan had come to Skandasramam
from the Virupaksha cave and a small batch of devotees had
gathered round him. The greatness of the Saint echoed all over
the world. Devotees from all parts of India were coming for his
darshan. While males enjoyed the privilege of staying in the
Asramam up the hill with Bhagavan the whole day, ladies were
not allowed to remain there after sun-set.

Maharshi had a younger brother and sister, his elder brother
having passed away prematurely. This younger brother Sri
Nagasundaram Iyer who was working as a clerk in Tiruvengadu
temple had a small son. Fortunately for Sri Ramanasramam to
be and unfortunately for his family, he took sannyasa when his
wife died leaving a two year old boy uncared for. When both
the parents left this child an orphan, Maharshi's sister, popularly
known as `Athai' (aunt), took charge of the child and brought
him up with unstinted love, affection and care. It was not only
because she had no issue of her own but also because this boy
was the only descendant of their whole family.

This lad was taken twice or thrice a year to Tiruvannamalai
to see Bhagavan and his father (of the poorvasrama), henceforth
known as Sri Niranjanananda Swami, by Athai and her husband,
who were living in the far South. They were provided with a
house near the hill at Tiruvannamalai. Every morning Athai
would go up the hill and return to town in the evening, leaving
the boy behind at Skandasramam.

When at first Athai hesitated to do this fearing to cause
any kind of inconvenience to the much loved boy, Bhagavan
said that he would be well under his protection.

In the night the boy would eat from the sacred hands of Bhagavan and Bhagavan would make him lie down beside him, cover him with a blanket and lull him to sleep. He bestowed on
him all care that any sincere mother is capable of. Early in the
morning he would take the boy to the spring, clean his teeth
with powder, and wash his face. Athai would rush up in the
morning. Bhagavan with the lad seated on a culvert would tell
the child, "There comes your Athai. See in what hurry she runs
up to see you." As soon as she came up, Bhagavan would tell
her, "Take your boy, see, he is safe and sound."

This abundant affection for the boy did not in any way
prevent Maharshi from being strict with him. The following
incident makes it clear that Bhagavan gave the boy a practical
lesson which till now he has not forgotten.

At Skandasramam lived a monkey named Nondi, which
was the pet of all. Maharshi had ordered that whatever food was
served to his followers should also be served to the monkey, and
in case it was absent elsewhere, then its share should be kept

separate for its return. In such a case, the food would be kept
near a window inside the cave and the shutter closed but not
bolted. This was the custom.

On one of his periodical visits to the Asramam one day,
the boy had enjoyed the sweet dishes served to the devotees. He
had a little more than the usual share. The monkey being absent,
its share was kept near the closed window. The boy, having had
his share, went up to the window and began to eat out of the
monkey's as well. Suddenly, the monkey came and opened the
window only to see the boy eating its share. It gave the boy a
blow on his cheek. Shocked and terrified, the boy cried out and
devotees tried to console him. Bhagavan came to the spot,
understood the situation and told the boy: "You deserve it. Why did you want his (monkey's) share. You have had enough already. You ought to have been contented with that."
Instead of appeasing the beloved child, Bhagavan put him right. The boy
became silent and heeded Bhagavan's words.

"Do not touch the property of others. Be content with what you have. Share equally what you have. Divide it with one and all around you. Help the needy. Be not blind when a wrong is committed before you. Correct it if possible, or at least speak out for the right."
These are some of the golden truths the young
boy was able to grasp from the words of the Maharshi that day.

That blessed boy is Swami Ramanananda (Sri T.N. Venkataraman,
former president of Sri Ramanasramam, the only descendant of Maharshi's family).
Silent Power
For more on Nondi and other animals, see Nondi
The ignorant one thinks 'I am the body';
The enlightened knows 'I am the Self'.

The Self alone, the Sole Reality,
Exists for ever.
If of yore the First of Teachers
Revealed it through unbroken silence
Say who can reveal it in spoken words?

Monday, January 29, 2007

In Memory of Chinnaswami

On 29th January 1953, Bhagavan Ramana's younger brother, Niranjananda Swami, also known as Chinnaswami passed away. This excerpt is taken from Ramana Leela

WHAT next? Bhagavan once said, "So long as Swami
is there, nothing will happen. Later, voices will be
Bhagavan's demise became unbearable for several
bhaktas most of whom left within a couple of days.

Ramanasramam, then resembled Ayodhya after Rama's
departure, or a Vedic mantapa where the sacred fires had
been extinguished.

With the passage of time, the sorrow abated. Krishna
Bhikshu attended the first aradhana but could not stay
beyond a few hours. Even that short time was spent in
shedding tears – it was as if past memories expressed
themselves as tears. He concluded that he could no longer
visit the Ashram and for the next three years, he did not
do so. But this could not last forever. Bhagavan would
not allow one to be away forever. One who became a prey
of Arunachala could never pull back. Arunachala would
devour him.

After Bhagavan's nirvana the problems relating to the
running of the Ashram increased manifold. It was to avoid
complications in this matter that Bhagavan had got a will
prepared under the supervision of Justice Sundaram
Chettiar. According to the will, poojas have to be offered
to images in the Matrubhuteswara shrine. The Ashram
should be developed as a spiritual centre first under the
supervision of Niranjanananda Swami and later under
the supervision of Venkataraman and subsequently the
members of the family. This last condition was not
acceptable to some and they began creating problems even
during Niranjanananda Swami's time but by Bhagavan's
grace all the problems got resolved.

Unable to handle the management single-handedly,
Niranjanananda Swami formed a Managing Committee
with himself as life-President and carried on the
management according to the advice of the Committee.

The activities of the Ashram such as running the
cowshed, guest house, Veda-pathasaala, the poojas of
Matrubhuteswara, Yogamba and Srichakra were carried
out as usual with Chadwick assuming responsibility for
the Veda-pathasaala and the poojas. A sub-committee was
constituted to ensure publication of books – mostly
Bhagavan's works as well as Talks with Ramana Maharshi
(M. Venkataramaiah), diaries of Devaraja Mudaliar (Day
by Day with Bhagavan) and S.S. Cohen. The aim of the
Ashram was to publish all the works of Bhagavan.

Even the daily routine was kept up as before and this
included the various poojas and Veda-parayana at prescribed

During Bhagavan's time, Niranjanananda Swami
would seek his advice on any problem and hence did not
feel running the Ashram burdensome, but now the situation
changed. Further, at that time visitors who came to have
Bhagavan's darshan donated liberally. But later their numbers

as well as the donations gradually declined. Not only that,
some came as friends ready to help but in course of time
became hostile and turned foes. Yet others attempted to
alter the arrangement of hereditary management. Yet
Chinnaswami tried hard to carry out the management by
surrendering himself to Bhagavan. His health was impaired
and he lay sick for several months in the Ashram hospital.

He kept his peace looking at Bhagavan's photographs
hanging in the room all around. It was that Mahatma's
power that looked after him all the time.

Meanwhile, another blow struck Chinnaswami. His
younger sister, Alamelu who brought up his mother-less
son, Venkataraman and saw through his wedding, fell
grievously ill. Much earlier in 1938 Chinnaswami had
summoned Venkataraman to assist him in the Ashram
work. Alamelu and her husband Pitchu Iyer, unable to
leave the boy whom they were bringing up as their own
son, moved to Arunachala and assisted at the Ashram. As
there was a regulation that women could not stay in the
Ashram premises, after nightfall a separate house had to be
hired for their stay beyond the Ashram premises. After
some years, Pitchu Iyer was able to build a house in a
locality called Ramana Nagar. He had generous help from
Bhagavan's devotees to build the house.

Alamelu who was Venkataraman's aunt came to be
known as 'aunt' by all the ashramites. She was usually
quiet, non-interfering and sweet-tempered. She had a
profound devotion for Bhagavan and when he was ill
pleaded with him with tears in her eyes that he should

cure himself. Bhagavan said to her: "Don't be sorry, my
dear. What is to happen will happen. You leave your cares
to me and be peaceful."
After Bhagavan's niryana her health deteriorated and
she was confined to bed for six months. On 3 January 1953 she breathed her last with Bhagavan's nama on her
lips. There was an extraordinary glow on her face at the
time of her expiry.

The passing away of his sister was a great blow to
Chinnaswami. With an aching heart he thought he had
had enough of the world and begged of his Lord, Ramana,
to take him away. As his end approached on 29 January
1953, he summoned his son Venkataraman, other family
members and close associates and gave his last message to

My conscience is clear, my hands unsoiled. I had
never used Ashram funds for myself and everything
in the Ashram belongs to Bhagavan. Preserve it
carefully and utilize it wisely. Dedicate yourself
wholeheartedly to the service of Bhagavan. By doing
so, you will earn his grace in abundance. Let sraddha,
faith and truth become inalienable parts of yourself.

Uphold our tradition in the conduct of the Ashram affairs. I have toiled to uphold them.

Chinnaswami became the sarvadhikari of the Ashram
in 1930. Until be became the sarvadhikari many outsiders
did not even know who he was, he was so self-effacing. He
conducted the affairs of the Ashram for twenty two years.

Upon his passing away, Vedic mantras were chanted
and the entire Ashram reverberated with them. In the
coconut grove opposite Matrubhuteswara shrine a Samadhi
was erected for him. He did not select this spot but the
choice would have pleased him immensely.

He was a very amiable person, but was prone to get
angry at the slightest provocation. He believed in wielding
the rod to correct errant persons. He possibly was not
learned but it could be that he sought liberation through
service to Bhagavan and his bhaktas – a service which was
unremitting and unsparing. The only yoga he knew was
that of seva and perhaps his only faith was that through
seva he would earn Bhagavan's grace. As his concern for
the Ashram was uncompromising some people perhaps
did not appreciate him. He would not hesitate even to
disturb devotees from their dhyana for Ashram purposes.

And he was meticulous in accounting for money.

It was because of his dedication that quite a number
of buildings and facilities came to be provided at the
Ashram, which enabled devotees to worship Bhagavan
without any difficulty.

Standing monuments of his activities are the
acquisition and establishment of Sundara Mandiram at
Tiruchuzhi and Ramana Mandiram at Madurai. After
Chinnaswami, his son Venkataraman took over as the
President of the Board of Trustees.