Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Click the following link, on how Bhagavan Ramana saw Politics in his lifetime


So with the Self. That alone exists; the pictures come and go. If you hold on to the Self, you will not be deceived by the appearance of the pictures. - Bhagavan Ramana

D: If the jnani and the ajnani perceive the world in like manner, where is the difference between them?
M: Seeing the world, the jnani sees the Self which is the substratum of all that is seen; the ajnani, whether he sees the world or not, is ignorant of his true Being, the Self.
Take the instance of moving pictures on the screen in the cinema-show. What is there in front of you before the play begins? Merely the screen. On that screen you see the entire show, and for all appearances the pictures are real. But go and try to take hold of them. What do you take hold of? Merely the screen on which the pictures appeared so real. After the play, when the pictures disappear, what remains? The screen again!
So with the Self. That alone exists; the pictures come and go. If you hold on to the Self, you will not be deceived by the appearance of the pictures. Nor does it matter at all if the pictures appear or disappear.

Ignoring the Self the ajnani thinks the world is real, just as ignoring the screen he sees merely the pictures, as if they existed apart from it. If one knows that without the seer there is nothing to be seen, just as there are no pictures without the screen, one is not deluded. The jnani knows that the screen, the pictures and the sight thereof are but the Self. With the pictures the Self is in its manifest form; without the pictures It remains in the unmanifest form. To the jnani it is quite immaterial if the Self is in the one form or the other. He is always the Self. But the ajnani seeing the jnani active gets confounded.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Isha Hata Yoga Teacher Training 2013 - More Details

QUESTION: Emotions are strong. Our attachments are strong. How does looking and seeing reduce the strength and power of these emotions? J.Krishnamurti answers

Right? Can we go on with that question? Trying to control, suppress, sublimate emotions and attachments in no way reduces the conflict, does it? Clear? Are we generally aware of our emotions? Are we aware of our attachments, which say emotions are very strong, attachments are very strong, are we aware of that? Do you know that you are attached? Go on sirs, find out. Are you attached strongly? And are your emotions so extraordinarily strong that they act? So first one has to be conscious, aware, know, recognise, see that your emotions are strong. And know also, be aware, recognise that you are attached. If that is so, when you are so conscious, what takes place? Do you understand my question?

I am conscious of my attachment, or my strong emotions of hate, jealousy, antagonism, like and dislike, I am conscious of that - right? Are you? Please we are sharing this together. Now, do they, being so strong, overshadow, control my action? You understand? I am examining, looking, observing, the emotions and attachments which are apparently very strong, and they act as barriers to clear thinking, to clear action, to unconfused thinking. So am I aware of them? Or we take it for granted? You follow my question? Say, 'Yes, I have very strong emotions, I'm terribly attached, but it doesn't matter. That's part of life. I don't mind struggling. I don't mind having quarrels with everybody'. There is a lovely joke, but I won't go into it! (Laughter)

So are we aware of them? Now if you are aware, what takes place? Please examine yourself. You are attached. Are you aware that you are attached? Just aware. You know that you are attached to that person, or to that piece of furniture, or to a belief, to a dogma, you know all the rest of it, attached to something. Now when you say you are aware, what do you mean by that? Know, recognise. Is thought recognising the attachment? You follow? You say, 'Yes, I'm attached' - is it the activity of thought that says, 'I am attached'? - you follow? Go into this please with me. Take a few minutes. Pay attention. Please, sir, quiet.

When you say, 'I'm attached', is it an idea? Or is it a fact? The fact is not the idea. This microphone, I can create an idea of it, but that is a fact. I can touch, see - right? So is my attachment a concept? A conclusion? Or is it a fact that I am attached? You see the difference? Do you? Please. So, when you are observing the fact, not the idea, not the conclusion about the fact, but the fact and you are aware of it, is the fact different from you who are observing the fact? You are following all this? I hope your minds are all active. It is clear, isn't it? Am I observing the fact through an idea, or through a conclusion? Or I have heard somebody say that - you follow? - and therefore I look, which means I am looking through a screen of ideas. So I am not looking at the fact.

So I am looking now at the fact. I'm not verbalising the fact, I'm looking at it. How do I look at it? As something separate from me - you understand? Attachment, something different from me? Or that is part of me? Do you understand? Don't go to sleep, please. If you want to sleep, sleep, but if you are serious for a few minutes, see this fact. That is, am I looking as though it was something apart from me? The microphone is apart from me, but attachment, emotions are part of me. Attachment is the 'me'. If I have no attachment there is no 'me'. So awareness of your emotions and attachments are part of your nature, part of your structure. So you are looking at yourself, so there is no division, there is no duality, me and attachment. There is only attachment, not the word, but the fact, the feeling, the emotions, the possessions, the possessiveness in attachment. That's a fact. So that is me.

So what am I to do with the 'me'? You understand? Now please follow this step by step. If you get tired, or if you are distracted, be distracted, but come back. So when there was division between me and attachment I could do something about it - right? Do you follow this? I could control it, I could say, 'No, I mustn't be', or suppress it, or do something about it all the time - right? Which we do. But if it is me, what can I do? Wait, wait. Follow it closely. If it is me, what can I do? I can't do anything, can I? I can only observe. Do you see the difference? Before I acted upon it. Now I can't act upon it, because it is me, it is my arm, it is part of me. So all that I can do is to observe - right? So observation becomes all important, not what you do about it. You see the difference?

So there is observation, not I am observing. There is only observation. In that observation, if I begin to choose and say 'I mustn't be attached' - I've already moved away in saying that's not me. You understand all this? So in observation there is no choice, there is no direction, just pure absolute clear observation. Then the thing that is being observed dissolves. Before you resisted it, you controlled it, you suppressed it, you acted upon it. Now in that observation all energy is centred. It is only when there is the lack of energy there is attachment. I wonder if you see this? Do you see this?

That is, when there is complete observation without any interference of thought, because you are observing. Why should thought come in? You understand the point? You are just observing the fly - the thing that you call the fly - just observe. In the same way to observe so completely your emotions, attachments, then there is a gathering of all energy in that observation. Therefore there is no attachment. I explained very carefully, it's only the unintelligent that are attached. It's only the people who do not see the full implications of attachment that are attached. And they pervade the world, they are the stronger element in the world and we are caught in that. But when you begin to examine this closely, look at it, then you're no longer caught in that, so you are no longer dissipating energy in something which has no meaning, naturally. So your energy is now centred completely in observation, therefore there is total dissipation of attachment. Test it, do it and you will find out. But you have to go step by step, don't jump into something or other, you have to examine the thing very, very closely, so that your mind is absolutely clear in the observation - right? It is only the unaware that jump over the cliff. The moment you are aware of danger, move. Attachment is a danger because it breeds fear, anxiety, hate, jealousy, being possessed and being not possessed - the whole of that, that is a tremendous danger. And when you see danger you act - not you act - there is action.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The art of witnessing - Not to be focused on the target. Be focused on the shooter. An article from Osho.

Osho – The warriors were something of the same – their bodies were worth seeing. They took care of their bodies, they took care of their discipline, and just to be a warrior they needed a certain meditation: to be alert, to be constantly aware because any moment … a small fault and you are finished. They were moving on the razor’s edge; their balance was something to be seen. But those warriors have disappeared.
Now war is an ugly affair; now war is pure destruction; it does not give any value to humanity. But the warrior, for thousands of years has given dignity, honor, to his body, to his mind, to his being, because he has to be absolutely alert, no thoughts can be allowed. He cannot go into the past, he cannot move into the future, he has to be in the present.
It is because of this that in Japan, swordsmanship and archery became methods of teaching meditation. There is no need to learn meditation separately – just learn archery and you will become a meditator; just a slight difference. One German professor, Herrigel, was learning archery in Japan. He was the best archer in Germany.
But in Japan, archery is not simply archery, it is a meditative process. The German was puzzled, because his idea was that you are a great archer if you are always hitting the bull’s eye, and he was one hundred percent successful. But his master would say, ”No, the basic thing is missing. We are not concerned with the bull’s eye; we are not concerned that your arrow always reaches the target; we are concerned with you.
You should not do anything. You should let the arrow move on its own accord. You should only provide the situation and then wait, and let it happen.”
This was impossible for the German mind to understand: how can it happen if you don’t pull the bow, if you don’t do something, and you just stand there with your bow and arrow, how is it going to happen? And even if it happens, it is not going to hit the target. There you can see the difference between the West and the East. The Western mind is more concerned with the target, and the Eastern mind is more concerned with the archer, the warrior.
The master said to him many times, ”Forget about the target. Even if you miss it, it will do. First I have to fix YOU.”
Herrigel said, ”What else can I do? I am the best archer in my country.”
The master said, ”You may be the best archer in your country, but here you are just amateur.”
Three years, and he could not get the point. It was difficult to get it. Finally, tired, he told his master, ”Tomorrow I am leaving.” The master said, ”I am sorry for you, but before leaving tomorrow, come back, have tea with me, and then you can go.”
When he came to take tea with him, he was teaching some other disciples archery. So he sat on the bench and just watched. For the first time, it was none of his concern. For the first time, he was relaxed; otherwise his tension had been there, day in, day out, he was thinking, how to let it happen?
But today he was sitting in the morning sun, in the garden of the master, relaxed, watching. He saw the master showing other disciples how they have to allow the arrow to go towards the target: they are not to force it, they have simply to let it go.
The master took the bow. Herrigel was not tense, he was not concerned, he was leaving, so he could see more clearly that the master was standing there, absolutely relaxed. As the arrow left the bow he could see his hands – there was no tension. He could see his face – there was sheer grace. And out of the blue he could see what is meant by ”let it happen.”
Spontaneously, he stood up, took the bow and arrow from the master’s hand – the master did not even ask what he is doing – and, without bothering about the target, held the bow and the arrow in a very relaxed and graceful attitude… the happening. It reached the target. The master said, ”Great, you have done it. You were not the doer; you allowed it to happen.”
Harrigel writes in his diary: ”The difference was so great. If I had left one day before, I may not have known the beauty of what my master was telling me for three years untiringly. I was getting tired, but he was not tired – every day the same thing. But it was my fault. I was tense and my whole concern was to hit the target, and his whole concern was that I should be in a grace, in a relaxed state. I was his target.”
The master was immensely happy: ”At least after three years you managed to do it.”
Herrigel said, ”I have not managed anything. I just saw you. I never looked at you. You were everyday teaching me. I was in my mind thinking all the time, how?, but it is not a question of how. Because I was so anxious to do it, I could not do it. ”Today there was no anxiety, the mind was silent, and I saw you for the first time – what grace, what beauty.”
In Japan, swordsmanship and archery have become methods of learning meditation. The warrior in the past was a beautiful human being, with a body as beautiful as a wild animal’s; with agility and with great art.

Without remembering what seed, in what field, in what season, they go on sowing because they trust. - Osho on Madame Blavatsky

I am reminded of one very important woman... because there have been a very small number of women who can be called important, but this woman was certainly important – Madame Blavatsky.

She founded a great movement, Theosophy. She used to travel all over the world, except Russia – and Russia was her native land.

It happens again and again; it seems to be almost a rule, a law. Blavatsky wandered all over the earth but could not enter Russia, her own birthplace, her own land. But wherever she went, she always used to carry two bags, on both shoulders, filled with seeds of beautiful flowers. Sitting in a train, from the window she would go on throwing seeds outside the train. People thought that she was mad. People asked, ”What is the purpose? You may never come again on this route.”

She said, ”That is not the point. I may not come but the spring will come. I may not come, but whoever passes by here will see the beautiful flowers.”

If this is my day of harvest, in what fields have I sowed the seed?

They are not goal-oriented, and they are not business people. They are lovers – it does not matter whose field it is. If beautiful roses blossom... it does not matter who passes by, if the breeze brings the fragrance to his nostrils. And these people are not mathematical. They don’t care whether it is day or night. They don’t care whether you deserve or not. They never ask you: ”Are you qualified enough to receive the seed?” No. Without remembering what seed, in what field, in what season, they go on sowing because they trust. They know only one thing: sooner or later the spring is going to come to everybody.

Every human being has to become a god – go on sowing the seeds. Centuries don’t matter. In the eternity of time, your centuries are just like seconds.


J.Krishnamurti on the art of witnessing

It is extremely difficult to talk about this, to convey in words the thing that actually happens when you do not desire any particular change. After all, that is what we mean by integration, is it not? When you see the whole process of the mind, when you are aware of the various struggles, divisions, cleavages, and in the centre there is no movement to transform or to bring these cleavages together then the observer is essentially quiet. He does not wish to trans form anything, he is merely aware that these things are happening - which requires enormous patience, does it not? But most of us are so eager to change, to do something about ourselves; we are impatient for an end, for a result. When the mind is aware of its own activities, not only the conscious, but also the unconscious, then you do not have to examine the unconscious to bring the hidden things to the surface - they are there. But we do not know how to observe. And don't ask, "How am I to observe, what is the technique? "The moment you have a technique it is finished, you do not observe. The quietness of the centre comes only when you are aware of all this, and you see that you cannot do anything about it: it is so. As
long as the mind is active in its desire to transform itself, it can only be a model of its own projection; therefore there is no transformation. If you really see the truth of this, then there comes a state of mind which is not concerned with change at all - and therefore a change does take place.

As I said, this is a very difficult subject to talk about. It is more a question, not of verbal or so-called intellectual comprehension, but of feeling out for oneself how the activities of the mind do impede the radical change.K

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Hold your breath. They are alive. They are alive. They are alive.

Bhagavan Ramana on practice of Advaita in outward life - As narrated by David Godman.

Keep advaita within the Heart. Do not ever carry it into action. Even if you apply it to all the three worlds, O son, it is not to be applied to the Guru.

Annamalai Swami has given an account of how this particular verse came to be written. It began with the following remarks by Bhagavan:
Advaita should not be practised in ordinary activities. It is sufficient if there is no differentiation in the mind. If one keeps cartloads of discriminating thoughts within, one should not pretend that all is one on the outside.

‘Westerners practise mixed marriages and eat equally with everyone. What is the use of doing only this? Only wars and battlefields have resulted. Out of all these activities, who has obtained any happiness?

‘This world is a huge theatre. Each person has to act whatever role is assigned to him. It is the nature of the universe to be differentiated but within each person there should be no differentiation.’

I [Annamalai Swami] was so moved by this speech that I asked Bhagavan to summarise these ideas in a written Tamil verse. Bhagavan agreed, took a Sanskrit verse from Tattvopadesa [by Adi-Sankaracharya, verse 87] which expresses a similar idea, and translated it into a Tamil venba. When he was satisfied with his translation, I also managed to persuade him to write the first fair copy in my diary. This verse was eventually published as verse thirty-nine of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham. (Living by the Words of Bhagavan, 2nd ed. p. 99)

Maurice Frydman, the compiler of I am That and Maharshi’s Gospel, questioned Bhagavan about the first half of this verse and received the following explanation:

Question: Sri Bhagavan has written [Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, verse 39] that one should not show advaita in one’s activities. Why so? All are one. Why differentiate?

Bhagavan: Would you like to sit on the seat that I am sitting on?

Question: I don’t mind sitting there. But if I came and sat there the sarvadhikari [the ashram manager] and the other people here would hit me and chase me away.

Bhagavan: Yes, nobody would allow you to sit here. If you saw someone molesting a woman, would you let him go, thinking, ‘All is one’? There is a scriptural story about this. Some people once gathered together to test whether it is true, as said in the Bhagavad Gita, that a jnani sees everything as one. They took a brahmin, an untouchable, a cow, an elephant, and a dog to the court of King Janaka, who was a jnani. When all had arrived King Janaka sent the brahmin to the place of brahmins, the cow to its shed, the elephant to the place allotted to elephants, the dog to its kennel and the untouchable person to the place where the other un­touchables lived. He then ordered his servants to take care of his guests and feed them all appropriate food.

The people asked, ‘Why did you separate them individually? Is not everything one and the same for you?’

‘Yes, all are one,’ replied Janaka, ‘but self-satisfaction varies according to the nature of the individual. Will a man eat the straw eaten by the cow? Will the cow enjoy the food that a man eats? One should only give what satisfies each individual person or animal.’

Although the same man may play the role of all the characters in a play, his acts will be determined by the role that he is playing at each moment. In the role of a king he will sit on the throne and rule. If the same person takes on the role of a servant, he will carry the sandals of his master and follow him. His real Self is neither increased nor decreased while he plays these roles. The jnani never forgets that he himself has played all these roles in the past. (Living by the Words of Bhagavan, pp. 216-7, 2nd ed.)

One can have the idea that everything is a manifestation of the Self, and one can attempt to incorporate this idea into one’s daily life by treating other people in an egalitarian way. However, all this would all be theoretical since it would be based on an idea of reality instead of stemming from a direct experience of the Self. From the standpoint of the Self ‘practising advaita’ is an oxymoron since in that state there is no longer an entity who can make choices about what should or should not be done. In that state action arises spontaneously from the Self, unmediated by the I-am-the-doer idea. Sadhu Om has elaborated on this important point in his commentary on this verse:
Advaita is the experience of clearly apprehending that, in reality, the Self, being-consciousness, shining continuously as ‘I am’, alone exists, and that all that appears in duality, consisting of the body, mind and world, is entirely unreal. Therefore, since doing belongs to the dualistic state, where the mind and body appear to be real, non-duality cannot be expressed through doing. On the contrary, should anyone think that non-duality might be expressed through doing, they would [be showing themselves to] be bereft of the experience of the truth of non-duality. (Sri Ramanopadesa Nul Malai – Vilakkavurai, pp. 314-15, 1987 ed.)
If, as Bhagavan instructed in the first quotation I gave from Living by the Words of Bhagavan, ‘Advaita should not be practised in ordinary activities,’ how is the sadhaka to relate to the world, which he still sees as separate from himself? Lakshmana Sarma, who received personal lessons from Bhagavan on the meaning of the Ulladu Narpadu verses, answers this question in his own comments on this verse:

... it is established that, until the I-am-the-body sense is removed, advaita cannot exist. It is fitting then that all the behaviours that occur in this state should respect the rules of duality, and one should act accordingly. It is not possible to implicate advaita in these behaviours. If any such attempt is made, impurities will arise through the power of the ego, and man’s dvaitic vasanas will wax greater. We observe that even a jnani who is established in the advaitic state will not, in his conduct, infringe the rules of dvaitic respect. Bhagavan’s view is that advaita is the direct experience of the jnani, whilst for the ajnani, it is useful for meditation and so on. (Ulladu Narpadu, p. 162, 1979 ed.)
It may be difficult to make out the reason for these injunctions [not to attempt to put advaita into practice]. But if we remember the power of the ego to pervert and frustrate even honest efforts to realise the truth – which would mean its own death – we need not be puzzled. Reflection on the truth of advaita tends to dissolve the ego and develop devotion to the truth. But action from the advaitic standpoint is suicidal because the enemy [the ego] would be in charge of such action. While ignorance is alive, duality persists in appearing as real, because of the ego sense, and truly advaitic action is impossible. The sage alone can put advaita into action, because he is egoless. Hence the sacred lore and also the sage advise us to restrict our activities and not to extend them, so as to give as little scope as possible for the ego to frustrate our efforts. (Maha Yoga, pp. 175-6, 2002 ed.)

... theoretical knowledge of the truth of non-duality does not avail to destroy the primary ignorance, so as to raise one to the egoless state in which wrong action would be impossible. So, until that state is won, the ego would be in command of actions, and this warning is therefore necessary. (This is a comment by Lakshmana Sarma that he appended to verse 416 of Sri Ramana Paravidyopanishad. This particular verse was a translation of Ulladu Narpadu Anubandham, verse 39. )

That is to say, one should strive for advaita in the Heart, but in outer activities one should adhere to the dualistic rules of dharma. There are two ideas present in this Anubandham verse: the first, which has just been dealt with, is that one should not attempt to practise advaita in the day-to-day activities of one’s worldly life; the second is a much more specific injunction that one should never practise advaita towards one’s Guru. That is to say, one should never think, ‘All is one. My Guru is the same as I am. Therefore, I don’t have to treat him as someone special since in essence he is just the same as everything and everyone else.’

Source link :  http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.in/2008/09/relations-with-guru.html

Friday, March 22, 2013

Why Do Desires Go Unfulfilled After Working Hard? Sadhguru

Once you have become aware of the way your being can remain undisturbed, then slowly you can start doing things, keeping alert that your being is not stirred. - Osho

Osho : When you are not doing anything at all – bodily, mentally, on no level – when all activity has ceased and you simply are, just being, that's what meditation is. You cannot do it, you cannot practice it; you have only to understand it.

Whenever you can find time for just being, drop all doing. Thinking is also doing, concentration is also doing, contemplation is also doing. Even if for a single moment you are not doing anything and you are just at your center, utterly relaxed -- that is meditation. And once you have got the knack of it, you can remain in that state as long as you want; finally you can remain in that state for twenty-four hours a day.

Once you have become aware of the way your being can remain undisturbed, then slowly you can start doing things, keeping alert that your being is not stirred. That is the second part of meditation. First, learning how just to be, and then learning little actions: cleaning the floor, taking a shower, but keeping yourself centered. Then you can do complicated things.

For example, I am speaking to you, but my meditation is not disturbed. I can go on speaking, but at my very center there is not even a ripple; it is just silent, utterly silent.

So meditation is not against action.

It is not that you have to escape from life.

It simply teaches you a new way of life:

You become the center of the cyclone.

Your life goes on, it goes on really more intensely -- with more joy, with more clarity, more vision, more inspiration, more creativity -- yet you are aloof, just a watcher on the hills, simply seeing all that is happening around you.

You are not the doer, you are the watcher.

That's the whole secret of meditation, that you become the watcher. Doing continues on its own level, there is no problem: chopping wood, drawing water from the well. You can do all small and big things; only one thing is not allowed and that is, your centering should not be lost.

That awareness, that watchfulness, should remain absolutely unclouded, undisturbed.

Meditation is a very simple phenomenon. - Osho.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sri Bhagavan often used to say that going for bhiksha was good for sadhana, that it would destroy the ego and remove the I-am-the-body idea.

But such moods were only momentary, and he [Bhagavan] could switch to his wonted geniality the next instant. Once Sri T. P. R. and I decided to ask Sri Bhagavan for an explanation of the sixth stanza of Arunachala Ashtakam, and went to the hall after Sri Bhagavan returned from his usual walk on the Hill. In the meanwhile something moved us. Sri Muruganar prostrated before Sri Bhagavan and went out on his usual round for begging food from the town. We had just then ground in the mortar jack fruit for a sweet dish for the midday meal, and Sri Muruganar had given some donation for bhiksha since it was his mother’s death anniversary. He was not there to taste the dish and we were sorry. The fact that he was going out after giving something for bhiksha in honour of his mother was brought to the notice of Sri Bhagavan. Instantly there was a change in the face of Bhagavan. He knew that Sri Muruganar was not a favourite with the Ashram management. ‘Who is to invite him to stay for meals? Chinnaswamy does not like him. He is the master here,’ said Bhagavan. (Surpassing Love and Grace pp. 103-4)

What this story does not make fully clear is that Muruganar went out for bhiksha (went to beg food for himself) after supplying the ashram with enough money to give all the devotees lunch in the dining room. This practice of donating money to feed devotees was known as ‘giving a bhiksha’. Reading this passage again made me think of the begging sadhu tradition and in particular of how Bhagavan honoured and even occasionally recommended it as a way of life.

In Padamalai, page 324, verse 46, Muruganar recorded the following remarks of Bhagavan:

Cure the disease of hunger with the medicine of food obtained through begging and live without any desire in your mind.

This particular piece of advice should not be taken as being applicable to everyone. Several of Bhagavan’s devotees, including Muruganar himself, used to beg for their food in Tiruvannamalai. However, Bhagavan never insisted that everyone should adopt this particular lifestyle. In the following story Bhagavan is making it clear to Annamalai Swami that he did not want him to go begging for his food. The background to this story is that Annamalai Swami was receiving financial support from Major Chadwick, and was dependent on it to feed himself. Chinnaswami ordered him to stop, but Chadwick was reluctant to do so. This is how Annamalai Swami described what happened next:

I [Annamalai Swami] thought, ‘Instead of depending on anyone else, I will go for bhiksha in town’.
Since this would bring about a major change in my lifestyle, I knew that I had to first get Bhagavan’s permission. He had previously told me not to beg for anything but I thought that he might now give me permission in order to save Chadwick from further embarrassment. One evening, while I was sitting in the hill, I explained the situation to Bhagavan and sought his permission to go for bhiksha. Bhagavan remained silent for about fifteen minutes. At the end of that period I stood up to leave. I knew that Bhagavan’s long silence indicated that he was not going to give me permission. Unexpectedly, Bhagavan told me to sit down again.
'You have sat for so long,’ he said. ‘Why are you standing now?’
I sat down again. A few minutes later Arumugam, the man who had helped me to build my room and to clear Bhagavan’s path, came into the hall. I noticed that he had left a big bag of rice outside the door.
When I asked him, ‘What is this rice for?’ he replied, ‘I brought it for you. I suddenly felt an urge to give you something.’
The timely appearance of Arumugam was Bhagavan’s answer to my request: I should not ask anyone for anything. I should depend on what devotees voluntarily gave me. (Living by the Words of Bhagavan, 2nd ed. p. 207)

In some cases, Bhagavan would encourage devotees to beg for food as an exercise in humility and self-sufficiency, while with others (Annamalai Swami, for example) he would ask them to live on whatever arrived unasked. What he would never do was give permission to householders with family and employment responsibilities to renounce the world and become sannyasis who lived on begged food or divine providence. In these cases he was unvaryingly insistent that they should remain with their families, earn money to feed themselves in the traditional way, and do sadhana in whatever free time was available.

I should like now to return to the first quotation I gave about Muruganar going out to beg his lunch after paying for everyone else to eat in the ashram.

Muruganar himself, with Bhagavan’s permission and blessing, used to beg his food on the streets of Tiruvannamalai. He never took formal sannyasa, since he knew that Bhagavan disapproved of his devotees taking that step, but he did live the life of a begging sannyasin for many decades. When he first came to Tiruvannamalai in 1923, he was a householder, a schoolmaster, and a member of a prestigious committee that was producing the definitive Tamil dictionary. Bhagavan made such a deep impression on him, he wanted immediately to renounce the world and become a sadhu. At this time his mother was still alive and in need of his support, so he delayed his decision until she passed away a few years later. Then, in a dramatic gesture, he sold off all his possessions, gave the money to Ramanasramam, and decided to live on begged food. He continued with this lifestyle right until the end of his life. When he moved into Ramanasramam for the last years of his life, he rarely ate with the other guests and devotees in the ashram dining room. Instead, he would go to the ashram’s kitchen door and ‘beg’ food there. Food would be put in his container, or sometimes just in a cloth, and he would take it way to eat elsewhere.

I happened to be sitting with Sadhu Om in the early 1980s when he told a story about going begging with Muruganar in the early 1950s. At that time there were several court cases pending, the outcome of which would determine who managed or owned Sri Ramanasramam. Various competing parties were issuing subpoenas, asking devotees to testify on their behalf. Sadhu Om and Muruganar decided to stay out of the disputes by disappearing and by living as begging sadhus in the Tanjore area, the region that Sadhu Om originally came from. While he was narrating this story Sadhu Om laughed and said that while Muruganar could follow this lifestyle quite easily and without any worries, he, Sadhu Om, would always spend the morning wondering whether he was going to eat that day.

‘Being dependent on begged food,’ he said, ‘is a good test of how detached and mentally quiet you really are. It’s easy to be peaceful and happy while you are meditating if you know that there is a good meal to follow, but if that certainty is not there, then the thought of food and its availability is quite likely to keep recurring while you meditate. In my case my chief thought every morning was “Am I going to eat today?”’

It was mentioned that Muruganar offered funds to feed devotees on the death anniversary of his mother. He was very attached to his mother and her memory, so much so that two of his major works (Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai and Guru Vachaka Kovai) are dedicated to her. When a visitor offered money to feed all the people in the ashram, that person would, of course, be invited to eat as well. The donor was also usually allowed to bring or invite some guests. This system is still in place today. It was therefore a major breach of protocol to offer money to feed the devotees in the ashram, and then not be invited to eat with them. Chinnaswami had had several run-ins with Muruganar and had tried to exclude him from the ashram at one point. I don’t know the exact details of all these disputes, but I do know that Chinnaswami disapproved of Muruganar having his works on Bhagavan printed privately, and not by the ashram. During Bhagavan’s lifetime all of Muruganar’s books were published with funds raised by Ramanapadananda (see http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.com/2008/05/ramanapadananda.html for more details of this arrangement).

When Sri Ramana Sannidhi Murai was first published, Chinnaswami tried to ban it from the ashram because it had been privately printed. In response, all the devotees put brown paper covers on the book, wrote ‘Tiruvachakam’ on the covers, and had communal readings in the hall. Even Bhagavan joined in by following the readings with his brown-paper-covered edition of the book. Chinnaswami thought all along that they were having readings from the Tiruvachakam

 In his early years at Arunachala, Bhagavan himself often went for bhiksha, or received bhiksha from the temple. This is his account of his first meal in Tiruvannamalai:

‘There used to be in Gopura Subrahmanyeswara Temple, a Mowna Swami (a silent sadhu). One morning when I was going about the Thousand-Pillar-Mandapam, he came with a friend. He was a Mowna Swami and so was I. There was no talk; no greetings. It was soon mid-day. He made signs to his friend to mean: “I do not know who this boy is, but he appears to be tired; please get some food and give him it.” Accordingly they brought some. It was boiled rice. Each grain was sized. There was sour water underneath. There was a bit of pickle to go with it. That was the first bhiksha given to me by Sri Arunachaleswara. Actually there is not an iota of pleasure in what I eat now. All the meals and sweets (pancha bhakshya paramanna) are nothing compared to that food,’ said Bhagavan.

‘Was it on the very first day of Sri Bhagavan’s arrival in that place?’ someone asked.

‘No, no, the next day. Taking it as the first bhiksha given me by Ishwara, I ate that rice and pickle and drank the water given me. That happiness I can never forget,’ remarked Sri Bhagavan.

‘I believe there is some other story about Sri Bhagavan going to the town for the first time for bhiksha,’ said one devotee.

‘Yes, there used to be one lady devotee. She very often used to bring me some food or other. One day she arranged a feast for all the sadhus and pressed me to dine along with them. I signed her to say that I would not do so and that I would be going out begging. I had either to sit and eat with them all or go out for bhiksha. Yes, it was God’s will, I thought, and started out for bhiksha. That lady had doubts as to whether I would go out for bhiksha or join the feast. She sent a man behind me. As there was no escape I went to a house in the street to the left of the temple and standing in front of it, clapped my hands.

‘The lady of the house saw me and, as she had already heard of me, recognised me and called me in, “Come in, my son, come in.” She fed me sumptuously saying, “My boy, I have lost a son. When I see you, you seem just like him. Do come daily like this, my boy.” I subsequently learnt that her name was Muthamma,’ said Bhagavan. (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, letter 16, ‘The First Bhiksha’, pp. 23-24)
 A shorter account of this first meal was also narrated by Bhagavan in Day by Day with Bhagavan, 10th October 1946. Bhagavan never verbally asked for food when he went out begging. He would just stop in front of a door and clap his hands. This is how he described his method to G. V. Subbaramayya:

One night Sri Bhagavan graciously enquired about my son-in-law’s health which had been causing anxiety for some months. After hearing my tale of domestic cares and worries, Sri Bhagavan looked me full in the face with utmost sympathy and spoke in melting tones: ‘Why can’t you be like me? You know how I was when I arrived in Tiruvannamalai. There was a time when I went round the town begging for food. In those days I was observing silence. So I would pass down the street halting for a moment in front of a house and gently clap my hands. If there was no response, I would pass on. Whatever food was thus got by me and other associates, we would mix into one mass and take a morsel each. That we ate only once a day. Now you see what changes have come outwardly, what buildings have been raised and how the ashram has grown all-round. But I am ever the same. Only the sun rises and the sun sets. To me there seems no other change. So through all the vicissitudes of good and evil, you be like me and whenever you are prone to depression and melancholy, you remember me.’ These gracious words of Sri Bhagavan have been with me ever since and protect me as a talisman against all the ills of life. (Sri Ramana Reminiscences p. 95)
 Bhagavan mentioned earlier that the first person to give him bhiksha was a woman called Muthamma. Her husband’s name was Chinna Gurukal. Bhagavan mentions her in the next account in which he explained that, after an initial shyness, he really enjoyed begging on the streets of Tiruvannamalai:

He [Bhagavan] said: ‘You cannot conceive of the majesty and dignity I felt while so begging. The first day, when I begged from Gurukal’s wife, I felt bashful about it as a result of habits of upbringing, but after that there was absolutely no feeling of abasement. I felt like a king and more than a king. I have sometimes received stale gruel at some house and taken it without salt or any other flavouring, in the open street, before great pandits and other important men who used to come and prostrate themselves before me at my asramam, then wiped my hands on my head and passed on supremely happy and in a state of mind in which even emperors were mere straw in my sight. You can’t imagine it. It is because there is such a path that we find tales in history of kings giving up their thrones and taking to this path.’ (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 30th May 1946)
 Bhagavan wiping his hands on his head indicates that he went begging without even having a vessel to collect his food in. He expanded on this, and on the benefits of begging for food, in the following ‘Letter from Ramanasramam’, which is entitled ‘Karathala Bhiksha [Alms in the Palms]’

Another person said, ‘Is it because of that [receiving begged food in the hands] that Ganapathi Muni praised you saying “Karathamarasena supatravata”?’

Bhagavan replied ‘Yes. When you have hands, why all these things? It used to be an exhilarating experience in those days. When I was going out for bhiksha, I used to take the alms in the palms of my hands and go along the street eating it. When the eating was over, I used to go on licking my hands. I never used to care for anything. I used to feel shy to ask anyone for anything. Hence that karathala bhiksha (alms in the palms) used to be very interesting. There used to be big pundits this side and that; sometimes big government officials also used to be there. What did I care who was there? It would be humiliating for a poor man to go out for bhiksha, but for one who has conquered the ego and become an advaitin, it is a great elevation of the mind. At that time, he would not care if an emperor came there. In that way, when I went out for bhiksha and clapped my hands, people used to say “Swami is come,” and give me bhiksha with fear and devotion. Those who did not know me used to say, “You are strong and sturdy. Instead of going out like this as a beggar, why don’t you go out to work as a cooly?” I used to feel amused. But I was a Mouna (silent) Swami and did not speak. I used to laugh and go away feeling that it was usual for ordinary people to talk like that. The more they talked like that the more exhilarated I felt. That was great fun.

 ‘In Vasishtam, there is a story about Bhagiratha before he brought Ganges down to the earth. He was an emperor but the empire seemed to him a great obstacle to atmajignasa (self-enquiry). In accordance with the advice of his Guru, and on the pretext of a yagna (sacrifice), he gave away all his wealth and other possessions. No one would, however, take the empire. So he invited the neighbouring king who was an enemy and who was waiting for a suitable opportunity to snatch it away and gifted away the empire to him. The only thing that remained to be done was to leave the country. He left at midnight in disguise, lay in hiding during day time in other countries so as not to be recognised and went about begging alms at night. Ultimately, he felt confident that his mind had matured sufficiently to be free from egoism. Then he decided to go to his native place and there went out begging in all the streets. As he was not recognised by anybody, he went one day to the palace itself. The watchman recognised him, made obeisance and informed the then king about it, shivering with fear. The king came in a great hurry and requested him (Bhagiratha) to accept the kingdom back, but Bhagiratha did not agree. “Will you give me alms or not?” he asked. As there was no other alternative, they gave him alms and he went away highly pleased. Subsequently he became the king of some other country for some reason and when the king of his own country passed away, he ruled that country also at the special request of the people. That story is given in detail in Vasishtam. The kingdom which earlier appeared to him to be a burden did not trouble him later when he became a jnani. All that I want to say is, how do others know about the happiness of bhiksha? There is nothing great about begging or eating food from a leaf which is thrown out after taking food from it. If an emperor goes out begging, there is greatness in that bhiksha. Nowadays, bhiksha here [at Ramanasramam] means that you must have vada and payasam (pudding). In some months, there will be several such things. Even for padapuja (worshipping of the feet) money is demanded. Unless the stipulated money is tendered before hand, they refuse to take upastaranam (a spoonful of water taken with a prayer before beginning to take food). The unique significance of karathala bhiksha has now degenerated to this extent,’ said Bhagavan. 

 Living only under trees, eating food out of their palms, disregarding even the Goddess of Wealth like an old rag, fortunate indeed are those dressed in a cod-piece. (Letter from Sri Ramanasramam, letter 123, pp. 209-10)

 Bhagavan lived on tirumanjanam from Unnamulai’s shrine for a short time in the 1896 when he was staying in the Arunachaleswarar Temple. B. V. Narasimha Swami mentioned this in Self-Realisation, pp. 49-50:

Mouna Swami used to give him the milk which flowed out of Goddess Uma’s shrine. This was not pure milk but a curious mixture of milk, water, turmeric powder, sugar, plantains and sundry other articles; and the Brahmana Swami [Bhagavan] would gulp it down with indifference.

The temple priest who noticed it one day was greatly pained and ordered that the pure milk poured over the Goddess and collected immediately should, without any admixture, henceforth be sent daily through the Mouna Swami in order that he might give part of it to Brahmana Swami.

 Though Bhagavan was happy to roam the streets of Tiruvannamalai, begging for food, he refused to accept invitations to eat in private houses. The head of Isanya Math once physically picked him up, put him on a bullock cart, took him home and fed him. Bhagavan most certainly would not have gone with him if he had merely issued an invitation. The only other devotee who managed to get him into a building and feed him was the grandfather of T. P. Ramachandra Iyer, the ashram’s lawyer. This is how Bhagavan narrated the event while Ramachandra Iyer was in the hall:

On an auspicious day in the early thirties a visitor arranged for a bhiksha to be given to Sri Bhagavan and all those present at the ashram. While we were talking about the forthcoming meal in the hall, Bhagavan suddenly recalled two early occasions when he was offered a bhiksha.

‘After leaving Madurai for good [in 1896] I only ate food in private houses on two occasions. One of them was when I ate at the home of Muthukrishna Bhagavathar of Tirukkoilur while I was still travelling to Tiruvannamalai.’

Then, turning to me, he observed, ‘The other occasion was at your grandfather’s. That was the only house I ever ate in after coming to Tiruvannamalai.’

I was delighted to hear of the good fortune my grandfather had had in serving Sri Bhagavan in this way. I asked Bhagavan how this came about and he graciously described the event, vividly recapturing the occasion for me.

‘After I came to this town, I had bhiksha in your house, eating from a leaf plate. Your grandfather, a devotee of Siva, was there. He was tall, had a stout frame, and was adorned impressively with a garland of rudraksha and other beads. Every day he would unfailingly visit the temple of Arunachaleswara and return only after having darshan. In those days [1896] I used to live near the temple of Subramaniam. Every day your grandfather would sit before me for a while without saying anything. Then he would rise and go away. I was a young boy keeping silence. He was an elderly person who also kept silent while he was with me, though he used to watch me all the time. He was well known in the town, and people of consequence used to be his guests. Do you know what happened? One day, some official arrived at his house and arrangements were made for a feast. That day also, as usual, after going into the temple and having darshan, he came to me and sat down. The thought came to him that he should take me that day to his house and give me a bhiksha.

‘As soon as he rose to return home, he abandoned his customary silence and said to me, “Hum, hum, get up! Get up! We will go to my home, have bhiksha and come back.”

‘What to do? I was not used to speaking, so I made negative signs, shaking my head and hands, signifying that it was not necessary. He did not listen to me or heed me. He was determined to take me that day and offer bhiksha. What could I do? He was big and strong whereas I was small and slight in comparison.

‘He repeated his demand: “Hum, hum, get up! Get up! You are just a youth. Leave yoga and tapas for a while. We shall go to my home, eat bhiksha and return.”

‘So saying, he took my arm, linked it into his, and made me get up and follow him. I was led to his house, which was near the temple chariot. It was a very spacious house with verandas on both sides. In between there was a big open courtyard with an edifice to goddess Tulasi in the centre. He made me take the most important place on the northern veranda. Then he spread a leaf larger than all the others and served me himself. It was only after I had finished eating that he ate his own meal. That was the only occasion I entered a house in this town. In those days, because I never had a bath, the body would be smelling. No one would come close to me. In spite of all that, your grandfather used to come unfailingly and sit with me. In this town, so many people would come, see me and go. But he alone realised that though I was a young boy, what was in this [body] was a Fullness.’ (The Power of the Presence, part two, pp. 150-52)

 Bhagavan’s high state was probably not known to many of the people he begged from. Indeed, as he mentioned earlier, some of the people whose houses he went to told him to go away and get a job since he was still young and healthy. I occasionally wonder if there are still mahatmas roaming the streets of Tiruvannamalai, unknown to the people they are begging food from. Bhagavan was once asked if a local tradition were true: that there were always seven jnanis in Tiruvannamalai. Bhagavan did not discount the possibility, but he did point out that if there were, it would be impossible to identify who these people might be since only a jnani could tell who else was a jnani. He even indicated that some of them might be beggars. Here is an interesting exchange on this topic between Bhagavan and Rangan, his childhood friend:

It is often said that only a jnani can recognise other jnanis. Bhagavan seemed to concur with this statement when he narrated an incident that had happened to him during his early years at Tiruvannamalai.
I had asked him, ‘When was the first time you took food from a sudra [a member of the lowest caste]?’ and he had replied that it had happened on his second day in Tiruvannamalai. This answer triggered off a memory of another early incident. He told me that while he was once sitting on the veranda of a choultry [guesthouse for pilgrims] in Tiruvannamalai, some mahatmas [great souls] had come along and thrust some food into his mouth. Bhagavan noticed that there were many sudras sitting nearby, but he could see that they thought that the mahatmas were just ordinary ascetics. (The Power of the Presence, part one, p. 18)

 Bhagavan could see who these people were, but the people around him could not.

On the big festival days Bhagavan would make a point of going to the ashram gate and supervising the distribution of food to the poor people and sannyasins who were always fed in large numbers on these occasions. They were given their food before the devotees were served theirs in the dining room. Bhagavan sometimes hinted that great beings occasionally showed up for bhiksha on these special days. By personally supervising the distribution of food to them, he ensured that they all got to see him, pay their respects, and receive prasad in the form of food. Santhammal, one of the ashram cooks, once had a vivid dream that supported this idea:

During the Kartikai festival beggars from all over South India would collect at Tiruvannamalai in vast crowds, and they would flock to the ashram for an assured meal. Once they became so unruly, the attendants refused to serve them. The matter was discussed among workers and it was decided to abandon the distribution of food to beggars. That night I had a dream: Bhagavan’s hall was full of devotees. On the sofa appeared a small creature which grew and grew and became a huge bright red horse. The horse went round the hall, sniffing at each devotee in turn. I was afraid he would come near me, but the horse went to Bhagavan, licked him all over the body, and disappeared. Bhagavan called me near and asked me not to be afraid. A divine perfume emanated from him.

He said, ‘Don’t think it is an ordinary horse. As soon as the flags are hoisted at Arunachaleswara Temple for the Kartikai festival, gods come down to partake in the celebrations. They join the crowd and some mix with the beggars at the ashram gate. So, never stop feeding beggars and sadhus at festivals.’

I told the dream to Chinnaswami, and that day he ordered seven measures of rice to be cooked for the beggars. (Ramana Smrti, ‘Eternal Bhagavan’, by Santammal)
 When Bhagavan moved up the hill to Virupaksha Cave, he no longer went out to beg for food himself. Instead, devotees would go out once a day, beg food for the whole community, and bring back whatever they received to Bhagavan. This was supplemented by any food that devotees such as Echammal and Mudaliar Patti chose to donate directly by bringing it to the cave. Bhagavan would mix all the offerings together and distribute them to all the people who were present. Ramanasramam was essentially a community of begging sadhus right up till the time that Bhagavan’s mother arrived in 1914 and began the ashram’s first kitchen.

The food obtained through these means was not always tasty, but Bhagavan seemed to enjoy this austere way of living. In the next account he told the devotees in the hall what happened when food was in short supply:

‘When I was in Virupaksha Cave, Sundaresa Iyer used to go out into the town for bhiksha and bring us food. At times, there used to be no curry or chutney. People to eat were many while the food obtained was limited. What were we to do? I used to mix it into a paste and pour hot water over it to make it like gruel, and then give a glassful to each, and take one myself. Sometimes we all used to feel that it would be better if we had at least some salt to mix with it. But where was the money to buy salt? We should have had to ask someone for it. If once we begin to ask for salt, we would feel like asking for dhal, and when we ask for dhal, we would feel like asking for payasam, and so on. So we felt that we should not ask for anything, and swallowed the gruel as it was. We used to feel extremely happy over such diet. As the food was sattvic, without spices of any kind, and there was not even salt in it, not only was it healthy for this body, but there was also great peace for the mind.’…

Not only do we not give up salt, but we always feel that chillies also are necessary for taste. That is how we have our rules and regulations about our eating habits. Great souls eat to live and serve the world, while we live to eat. That is the difference. If we eat to live, there is no need to think of taste. If we live to eat, the tastes are limitless. And for this purpose, we undergo ever so many trials and tribulations. (Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, letter 63 ‘Contentment’, 19th August 1946, pp. 84-5)
 When there were very few devotees at Virupaksha Cave, a choultry (a guest house for pilgrims) in town agreed to supply food, but when the numbers increased, the manager of the choultry began to hint that there were too many mouths to feed. Perumal Swami decided that henceforth the devotees should rely only on begged food and not trouble the choultry any more. Kunju Swami narrates what happened next:

In later years, when additional devotees started staying with Sri Bhagavan in Virupaksha Cave, the food obtained from the sadhu’s choultry was found to be insufficient for everyone. The devotees then decided that they would get their food by begging in town. Each day they would go to town in the late afternoon to beg for and collect food. Later that day, they dined on the bhiksha food back at Virupaksha Cave and any leftovers were used the next morning. Instead of waiting in front of each house and asking for food, which is the traditional way that religious mendicants beg in India, the devotees would walk along each street singing Akshara Malai Vigraha Amasadeeswara, a hymn composed by Adi-Sankara. It was only necessary to beg in the evenings because the food eaten at midday was brought by Echammal, Mudaliar Patti, Kannakammal and others.

When the householders in town heard this Sankara song being sung, they would know that the group was Sri Bhagavan’s devotees. They would then come out of their houses and offer clean, fresh food. However, some local sadhus from the town came to hear about this routine. They started singing the same song and began collecting the ashram’s food before Sri Bhagavan’s devotees had even got to town. Only when Sri Bhagavan’s devotees came singing for bhiksha did the householders realise that they had been deceived by the other sadhus.

Palaniswami, Perumal Swami and some others went and told Sri Bhagavan that if he composed some other songs for their use while going for bhiksha, it would put an end to the problem caused by the other sadhus. They also told him that such songs would help those who offered bhiksha to identify the group. Acting on their suggestion and request, Sri Bhagavan composed Aksharamanamalai, a Tamil poem of 108 verses in praise of Arunachala. The devotees then began to sing it regularly when they went into town for bhiksha. (The Power of the Presence, part two, p. 21)

 Bhagavan himself once told devotees how the ashram’s begging party would go about its business:

Bhagavan proceeded to describe how Perumalswami and Kandaswami used to blow in concert on the conch and how when Bhagavan was in Virupaksha Cave, Perumalswami, Kandaswami and Palaniswami used to go about begging in the streets for food and bring it up the hill and all there used to share it. Before Perumalswami joined them, Palaniswami and Ayyaswami and Kandaswami would go to a chattram [choultry] and the manigar [manager] would give food for all. But when Perumalswami also joined, the manigar began questioning why an addition was necessary. Thereupon Perumalswami laid down they should no longer go to the chattram or be at the mercy of the manigar, but would go and beg in the town. Accordingly, a party of four or more would leave the cave on this errand. When leaving the cave, they would blow a long blast on their conches. This was an announcement to the town’s people that Bhagavan’s party had left the cave on their begging mission. The party would give another blast when they reached the foot of the hill. A third call would be sounded at the entrance to the street. All the residents of the street would be ready with their offerings and the party would march along the street singing some Sivanamavali and collecting the offerings. The food collected was ample, it seems, for all who gathered near Bhagavan and all the monkeys, etc.

Marital Garland of Letters [Aksharamanamalai] was specially composed for use by the begging party.

Bhagavan humorously added, ‘Marital Garland of Letters fed us for many years’. (Day by Day with Bhagavan, 9th December 1945, morning)
 The communal begging expeditions stopped during the Skandashram era when several devotees arranged a different way of supplying the ashram’s food needs. Kunju Swami has described how this came about:

After Bhagavan moved to Skandashram a devotee called K. R. Venkatasubramania Iyer came from Calcutta. He was a prosperous man and he wanted to be of service to the ashram. He consulted Gambiram Seshayyar, who was then responsible for running the ashram’s affairs. Seshayyar mentioned that the ashram was already receiving a few cash donations in addition to the food supplied by Echammal, Mudaliar Patti, Kannamal and a few other devotees. Gambiram Seshayyar told Venkatasubramania Iyer that if the ashram could be sure of receiving an additional Rs 40 per month, it would pay for all their food expenses and eliminate the need of going for bhiksha. Venkatasubramania Iyer agreed to send Rs 60 every month and gave the first installment on the spot. From then onwards, Gambhiram Seshayyar, who lived in town, daily sent to Skandashram one day’s supply of provisions such as rice, dhal and oil in a box that came to be known as ‘the post box’. In those days, all the provisions and foodstuffs received during the day would be used immediately. Nothing would be retained for use the next day. It was for this reason that Gambiram Seshayyar only ever sent one day’s supply of food. (The Power of the Presence, part two, pp. 37-8)

 Though this arrangement meant that the ashram no longer needed to send out a begging party each day, some devotees continued to beg individually for their food. Kunju Swami has described how his friend Ramakrishna Swami tried to take up this lifestyle:

Sri Bhagavan often used to say that going for bhiksha was good for sadhana, that it would destroy the ego and remove the I-am-the-body idea. During the early days of our stay at Sri Ramanasramam, Ramakrishna Swami wanted to live on bhiksha. After taking Sri Bhagavan’s permission, he stayed at Virupaksha Cave and went each day to town for bhiksha.

As he walked along the street, he would shout ‘Bhiksha! Bhiksha!’ Because his call was strident, like the shouts of a hawker, some of the local boys made fun of him by asking, ‘How many bhikshas for a paisa?’

Following Sri Bhagavan’s advice that he should go to a different street every day, he begged in several different streets on two or three successive days.

On the fourth day he went down a new street and shouted ‘Bhiksha! Bhiksha!’ in the usual way. A devotee called Lakshmi Amma, who lived in that street, recognised him as an ashramite and insisted on his having bhiksha in her house. She took him inside, washed his feet, put down a leaf-plate and served food on it. She then asked him to recite the Siva Puranam [the introductory portion of the Tiruvachakam]. As he did not know that particular work, he just sat there without saying anything. When Lakshmi Amma realised that he didn’t know what to do, she herself repeated the Siva Puranam and also a song from the Periyapuranam. She waved lighted camphor before him, prostrated to him and requested him to eat. Ramakrishna Swami felt ashamed and regretted his ignorance of what appeared to be a traditional ceremony for begging sadhus. Feeling that his attempts at going for bhiksha were not enough, he returned to the ashram.

 When Sri Bhagavan came to hear this story he laughed and said, ‘What to do? If one goes for bhiksha because of poverty one will have to go grovelling and with some hesitation. But what is he [Ramakrishna Swami]? Does he not have money of his own? Does he not have enough to buy food? After all, he only went for bhiksha for the sake of following a tradition. That is why he shouted “Bhiksha!” in such a majestic and dignified manner. At the time when I went out for bhiksha, I too would go in a dignified manner, and with indifference. It is something that comes naturally to one.’

Then he added, ‘Those who are begging sadhus should know the Siva Puranam and songs from the Periyapuranam. When one goes for bhiksha, or when one goes to eat in a math, one should recite both of these works before taking food. In North India the works are different. There, before eating, one must recite the fifteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita and the Siva Mahimna Stotra, but here in the South it is not necessary for everyone to know them.’

After hearing Sri Bhagavan say this, I learned the Siva Puranam, some songs from Periyapuranam, some verses from the Bhagavad Gita and a few other songs. If there was any function in any math or ashram, Sri Bhagavan would ask me to go and attend as the ashram’s representative. With a confidence born out of knowing the tradition, I would happily go. (The Power of the Presence, part two, pp. 58-59)

 I first read this account in the 1980s. When I went to see Kunju Swami a few days later, I asked him to talk about his days as a begging sadhu. He surprised me by saying that he had never gone out begging himself since he had always been given funds to support himself.

Another devotee who enjoyed begging for food was Mastan. He had become a begging sadhu even before he came to Bhagavan.

I [Mastan] came under the spell of bhakti before the age of twenty. During the Muharram festival I would put on the garb of a pandaram [a Saiva monk], smear vibhuti on myself, carry a begging bowl and roam around. (The Power of the Presence, part three, p. 22)

He stuck to this lifestyle after he came under Bhagavan’s influence. This is how Akhilandamma described his activities:

Mastan and I would come to Arunachala from our village to have the pleasure of serving Bhagavan. Mastan, a weaver, belonged to our village, but he did not stick to his craft. A man of whims, he would suddenly suspend his weaving and go to live with Bhagavan for months on end. During this time he would keep his body and soul together on alms that he begged. (The Power of the Presence, part three, pp. 26-7)
 Ramanatha Brahmachari also begged independently in his early years with Bhagavan. This is Annamalai Swami’s description of an event that took place in the first decade of the last century:

Ramanatha Brahmachari first came to Bhagavan in the days when Bhagavan was living in Virupaksha Cave. He had a very distinctive appearance because he was very short, wore thick glasses, and always covered his body with a large amount of vibhuti. In the Virupaksha days he used to go for bhiksha in town. He would bring whatever food he had managed to beg to Virupaksha Cave, serve it to Bhagavan, and then afterwards eat whatever remained.

One day, as he was bringing some food to Bhagavan, he met his father on the hill. He was sitting outside Guhai Namasivaya Temple, which is about halfway between the town and Virupaksha Cave. His father said that he was very hungry and asked for some of the food which his son had begged.

Ramanatha Brahmachari, thinking that it would be improper and disrespectful to feed anyone, even his own father, before Bhagavan had received his share, told his father, ‘Come with me to Bhagavan. We can share the food there.’

His father, who had no interest in Bhagavan, refused to come. He asked his son to give him some food and then leave, but Ramanatha Brahmachari refused.

Bhagavan had been observing all this from Virupaksha Cave. When Ramanatha Brahmachari finally arrived there, Bhagavan told him, ‘I will not take any of your food unless you first serve your father’.

Ramanatha Brahmachari went back to Guhai Namasivaya Temple, but instead of following Bhagavan’s instructions he again asked his father to come and eat with Bhagavan at Virupaksha Cave. When his father, for the second time, refused to come, Ramanatha Brahmachari went back to Virupaksha Cave without giving him any food.

Bhagavan again told him, this time more firmly, ‘I will only eat if you feed your father first. Go and feed him.’

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. (Living by the Words of Bhagavan, 2nd ed. p. 106)

 So far as I am aware, only one foreign devotee, Maurice Frydman, went out for bhiksha. In the mid-30s he asked Bhagavan to initiate him into sannyasa, and Bhagavan, as usual, refused. Frydman obtained the initiation elsewhere and adopted the name ‘Bharatananda’, ‘the bliss of India’. At the time he was running a large electrical factory in Bangalore on behalf of the Maharaja of Mysore. Instead of renouncing his worldly responsibilities, he continued with his job, turning up each day in orange robes. Each evening, though, he would go out to beg for his food, often from the houses of the workers he was supervising during the day. He refused to touch his large salary, even though the maharaja continued to pay it into his account. When he finally left the job to reorganise the princely state of Aundh with the raja’s son, Apa Pant – a project that was sponsored by Mahatma Gandhi – he closed the account and divided the money equally between all the workers in the factory.

Neither the maharaja nor the dewan (the chief minister) was happy with the way that Frydman was conducting himself. He had been headhunted in Paris to spearhead a modernisation programme in Mysore State. Having their factory manager turn up for work in orange robes seemed to them to present a regressive rather than a progressive image of the state. When Frydman refused to give up begging, the dewan negotiated a compromise because he valued Frydman’s engineering and organisational skills. Under the new arrangement Frydman could continue to beg, but not from the houses of his own workers. The dewan believed, probably rightly, that being dependent on his own workers for food would diminish his capacity to maintain discipline in the factory. The other concession that the dewan extracted was on the matter of dress.

He told Frydman, ‘We hired you to be the modern face of our regeneration programme. We send important visitors to your factory with the idea of impressing them with what a modern and forward-looking state we are. And what do they find? A man in orange robes running the place. This is not the image we want to present. Since you are representing us to the outside world, if we send an important visitor to see you, you will have to represent our interests and aims by wearing a suit for the occasion. What you wear on other occasions is your own business.’

Frydman accepted the logic of this and agreed to dress more appropriately when visitors came.

During my ongoing research on Frydman I found an interview in Polish in which he said that his urge to adopt sannyasa came from an old samskara. He said that he had been a Buddhist monk in a previous incarnation, and that he had had an irresistible urge to wear orange and beg in his current life. He said that Bhagavan had opposed his decision to take sannyasa, and that he had been right in doing so. Frydman eventually gave up wearing orange, since he felt that it had become a hindrance rather than a help to his activities and sadhana.

As I mentioned earlier, although Bhagavan approved a begging lifestyle for some of his devotees, he never gave permission for any of them to be formally initiated into sannyasa. Kunju Swami, Sadhu Natanananda and Papaji all asked Bhagavan to initiate them, and all were refused. Kunju Swami went to Rishikesh, took initiation there and came back with a new name.

When he announced it to Bhagavan, Bhagavan laughed and said, ‘I will carry on calling you Kunju Swami’. The new name was never used.

 Sadhu Natanananda tried to get Bhagavan to bless his orange robes when he decided to take sannyasa, but Bhagavan refused to touch them when they were placed before him. Sadhu Natanananda ignored this hint, took sannyasa somewhere else, but later regretted it. Some time later he returned to Ramanasramam, offered his orange robes to Bhagavan and reverted to his former lifestyle. Papaji merely went back to work in Chennai and dropped the whole idea. Maurice Frydman delayed giving up his orange robes for many years since he felt that giving them up would attract unfavourable comments in some quarters, but in the end, he too bowed to the inevitable.

I will conclude this post on bhiksha in Tiruvannamalai with a story that came to my attention a few months ago. A sadhu in the Arunachaleswara Temple who was begging for money there, rather than for food, passed away last year. Before he died, he went to a lawyer and put all the proceeds from his begging, which had accumulated over the years, into a trust fund which was to be utilised to provide food for the remaining beggars in the temple. I am not sure that Bhagavan would approve of sadhus hoarding large amounts of cash from their begging activities, but I am sure he would give a wry smile if he heard what the money was now being used for. Does anyone know about this? I do hope it’s a true story and not just a rumour. 

Source Link :  http://sri-ramana-maharshi.blogspot.in/2010/10/bhiksha-in-tiruvannamalai.html

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