Arthur Osborne: Bhagavan was reclining on his couch and I was sitting in the front row before it. He sat up, facing me, and his narrowed eyes pierced into me, penetrating, intimate, with an intensity I cannot describe. It was as though they said: “You have been told; why have you not realized?” ["Fragrant Petals", Pg 44]

Sunday, June 24, 2012

“The Turning Point”

One of my favourite reminiscences concerning Sri Bhagavan is recorded in one of Sri Ramanasramam’s relatively unknown but historically important publications, a slender book called “Ramana - Pictorial Souvenir – Commemorating the Kumbhabhishekam on 18.6.1967”. As the sub-title implies, the book was published to mark the Kumbhabhishekam of the Mantapam-shrine over Sri Bhagavan’s Samadhi. It contains short articles by some of the very old and faithful devotees, together with many (till then) unpublished pictures.

“The Turning Point” (on Pg 32) was written by “Natananandar”, otherwise well known as Sadhu Natananda. For me it remains as one of the most concise and complete instructions from Bhagavan. It is vichara without the “Who am I?”. I never cease to marvel at the first para of Bhagavan's teachings (marked ‘1’ below) as to how complex the matter actually is, that is explained so succinctly and simply. In effect, to ask for Grace is absurd; because who is it that asks for Grace? The body is incapable of asking, as it is insensient. “Who is asking” is thus de-facto “who am I?”, and the answer has to regress progressively into the Self, or the Grace Itself. And thus Grace Itself is asking for Grace! To "realize" this, to feel this Grace in a manner of speaking, is to Realize the Self here and now! [And so Bhagavan repeatedly says that Grace is always there, Grace is always ever-flowing, only we don’t recognize it … ]


The Turning Point

I was twenty years old in 1917-18 and a school-master. Being naturally of a pious disposition I used to go about from place to place frequently to have darshan of the deities installed in temples. A noble soul who saw this brought me of his own accord the two books (in Tamil), Sri Ramakrishna Vijayam and Sri Vivekananda Vijayam, and asked me to read them. As soon as I had read them I was seized with an intense longing for the vision of God and for finding out the Guru who would show the way to it. While I was engaged in this search I heard about the extraordinary greatness of Bhagavan Sri Ramana through a holy person whom I happened to meet at Sriperumbudur. On 2nd May 1918, I saw Sri Ramana for the first time at Skandashramam on Arunachala.

I beseeched him fervently thus: “It is my great desire that I should actually experience your gracious wisdom. Kindly fulfill my desire.” In those days Sri Ramana was not speaking much. Still he spoke kindly as follows:

“Is it the body in front of me which desires to obtain my grace? Or is it the awareness within it? If it is the awareness, is it not now looking upon itself as the body and making this request? If so, let the awareness first of all know its real nature. It will then automatically know God and my grace. The truth of this can be realized even now and here.” [1]
Besides speaking thus, he also explained it as follows, through my own experience.  
“It is not the body which desires to obtain the grace. Therefore it is clear that it is awareness which shines here as ‘you’. To you who are of the nature of awareness there is no connection during sleep with the body, the senses, the vital airs [prana] and the mind. On waking up you identify yourself with them, even without your knowledge. This is your experience. All that you have to do hereafter is to see that you do not identify yourself with them in the states of waking and dream also, and to try to remain yourself as in the state of deep sleep - as you are by nature unattached you have to convert the state of ignorant deep sleep, in which you were formless and unattached, into conscious deep sleep.  It is only by doing this that you can remain established in your real nature. You should never forget that this experience will come only through long practice. This experience will make it clear that your real nature is not different from the nature of God.” 

The lovely dedication in the book


David Godman said...

This is a most interesting account to me. The story of Sadhu Natanananda's first visit to Bhagavan has been retold many times in Bhagavan's biographies, but the version of events told here, by Natanananda himself, seems to contradict all the other versions that were narrated by other people. All the other accounts say that Natanananda was unable to get any instruction from Bhagavan when he first went to see him and that he had to go to extraordinary lengths to get upadesa. Natanananda must have read these accounts, or been told about them, and decided that he didn't want to contradict them.

Arvind Lal said...

The original Souvenir is pretty rare I believe. I spotted it in the online catalogue of a bookstore in the US and ordered it not really knowing what to expect. The cartage cost 3 times the book. But the interesting thing is that the bookshop actually had 2 copies of the Souvenir, and they probably did not know what to do with them, ‘cause, even though I had paid for only one, they sent me both!