Letters from Sri Ramanasramam
VOLUMES I, II
Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam
By SURI NAGAMMA
D. S. SASTRI
The small tumour which showed itself on the left upper arm of Bhagavan in November 1948, began growing from day to day so that by 1-2-1949 it became as big as a marble. The doctor in charge of the Ashram hospital, Dr. Sankara Rao, and a retired surgeon, Dr. Srinivasa Rao, pointed it out to Bhagavan and offered to remove it by a small surgical operation. Bhagavan however did not agree to it. As it continued to grow rapidly, the doctors got perturbed and somehow prevailed upon Bhagavan to agree to its removal. Accordingly the first operation was performed on the morning of 9-2-1949.
All the devotees wanted the bandage to be covered so as not to be visible to outsiders. But then, was there an upper cloth to cover it? Was there a shirt to wear? The only thing Bhagavan had was a white cloth, half-a-yard wide and three-fourths of a yard long. He tied it around his neck so as to conceal the bandage. Still the bandage was visible through the gaps. When some people who had the courage to ask him what the matter was, Bhagavan used to reply with a laugh, that he had worn a bracelet on the arm or that a Lingam had been born there, or that it was a Swayambhu Lingam.* Some time later the bandage was removed. People said that the wound was healing up. Somehow, everyone forgot about it during the bustle of the Kumbhabhishekam which took place on 17-3-1949. As soon as the festivities were over all people came to know that the tumour had shown itself again. Some suggested treatment with green leaves and milk of the fig tree. Others brought a medicated plaster and put it on. On 27-3-1949, Raghavachari and other doctors who came from Madras, said that none of those remedies would do and that the tumour must be operated upon again. They left after deciding that a second operation should be performed and promised to come back on 3-4-1949 for the purpose. I was somehow frightened and in a prayerful attitude, entreated Bhagavan, saying, “Why all these operations? Why do you not cure yourself by getting some medicine prescribed by yourself and using it, the same as you did when you had jaundice?”
Bhagavan replied, “They are all reputed doctors. Let their treatment be carried out.”
When I said that they had already performed an operation which had been found unsuccessful and enquired why Bhagavan should not have his own treatment, Bhagavan said, “Let it go this time. If it appears again, we will see about it.”
On the morning of 3-4-1949, while we were discussing about the details of the operation in the presence of Bhagavan, the doctors came. Seeing them, Bhagavan said, “Look. The doctors have come,” and began arranging his legs preparatory to getting up. Bhagavan was demonstrating the practical application of his upadesa (teaching), whatever is to happen will happen, and whatever is not to happen will not happen. Then Bhagavan said with a firm voice, “Yes. That which is to happen will not stop even if we say ‘no’.” So saying he got down from the couch and went into the hospital. Till about the middle of May 1949, everything went on fairly satisfactorily. But afterwards there was an all round anxiety and worry because when the stitches were removed blood began oozing from the place where the operation had been performed. The tumour had not healed and was clearly exhibiting its malignancy. As it was suggested that it would do good to expose the tumour to the sun’s rays, in June 1949, the doctors used to seat Bhagavan behind the Gosala (cowshed), open the bandage, wash the wound and keep it exposed for some time to the sun’s rays. On such occasions, devotees who expressed their fear and anxiety were told by Bhagavan, “See how nice it is! It is like a precious ruby. It has become an ornament to my arm. See how red it is! It is glowing brilliantly with the sun’s rays falling on it. Look at it!” And when they saw blood oozing out and remarked about it with great grief, he used to say, “Why worry? Let the blood flow out. It is a ruby, you see. Like the ‘Syamanthakamani* this is also producing gold every day. The only difference is, in that case, the gold that was produced was yellow while in this case it is red. See how much is oozing out.” And if any devotees prayed to him to heal himself, he used to say “What have I to do with this?” or “What can I do?”.
On 5-7-1949, an old man from Valuvai, a village nearby and a reputed Ayurvedic doctor, started applying the juice of some green leaves and bandaging the wound. Before he began the treatment, he saw the wound in all its malignancy and remarked with immense grief. “Oh Bhagavan! How serious this is! Swami, this is cancer. This should not be touched at all. Why did you allow it to be operated on? If I had known it in the beginning, I would have dressed it with green leaves containing medicinal properties and cured it. It is too late now Swami.”
When Bhagavan was returning to the hall after leaving the hospital in the evening of 1-7-1949, his body began to shake and his legs began to falter. He had fever. He somehow reached the hall and squatted on the couch. While we were all alarmed and were anxiously looking at him Santhamma could not contain herself and, being elderly, and a very old devotee, took the liberty of addressing Bhagavan and said, “Oh, the body!” No sooner had she said this than Bhagavan remarked, “Oh, the body? Why? What has happened? It is shaking. What if it shakes?” So saying, he suppressed the shivering, and looking at his attendants, said with a laugh, “That is Nataraja’s* dance. Why should you be afraid? If everyday the body is giving you darshan in its static form, today it is giving it to you in a dance pose. Why all this anxiety?” So saying, he sat there in dignified silence. The Veda Parayana was then done.
On 7-8-1949, Dr. Guruswami Mudaliar was here personally to supervise the third operation. I had already written to you that it was from that date that questions and answers in Bhagavan’s presence had become rare. After the final operation was performed on 19-12-1949, Bhagavan did not come into either the new hall or the old hall. He confined himself to the small room opposite the big hall. After homeopathic treatment was tried Ayurvedic treatment began. The Moos (a famous Ayurvedic doctor from Kerala) who was treating Bhagavan felt discouraged and on 3-3- 1950 he wrote a stotram in praise of Bhagavan and arranged for its parayana along with Vishnu Sahasranamam (thousand names of Vishnu), every day. Some devotees performed Surya namaskar (salutation to the Sun) and some began doing Mrityunjaya Japam (prayer to Lord Siva, the conqueror of death). Just as he had handed over his body to the doctors to do whatever they liked with it, saying ‘Yes, yes’, he was accepting the offerings of those devotees in the shape of tirtha (consecrated water) and Prasadams (offerings of food to the gods).
After the Mrityunjaya Japam was over, the people concerned asked him if they could proceed with the Mrityunjaya Homam. He nodded in assent and as soon as they left turned towards Venkataratnam and said, “Extinction of ego and abidance in Self is the Mritunjaya Homam. In Devikalottaram, verse 16 and 17, it is stated that one should not get immersed in mantrams, homams and such things. Also in Sarvajnanottaram, verse 35, it is said that abidance in Self itself is the mantra, the devata, the diksha, the tapas, the homam and the dhyana.” About the same time a lady devotee had Chandi Homam performed. Another lady lighted holy candles to appease Sani (Saturn). Some had abhisheka and other pujas performed in Arunachaleswara Temple.
On 17-3-1950, Bhagavan had some vomitings with consequent discomfort and so did not take any food subsequently. Hearing that, his sister Alamelu went to him and said, “Oh, Bhagavan! It seems you have not taken anything at all. Today’s payasam (pudding) is very tasteful. You have not taken even a drop of it.” Bhagavan however sent her away with some words of comfort.
From the time the cancer showed itself, I always used to pray to Bhagavan whenever I could manage to see him, “Please get yourself cured of this ailment and remain in this world for our sake.” Bhagavan used to console me with some comforting words or other. When the third and the fourth operations were performed and I expressed my fear and anxiety, he used to say that there was no need for worry and there was nothing really seriously wrong. Hence, however serious the ailment was, and however much other people felt anxious and discouraged, I used to think that Bhagavan would hint to me if there was anything imminent. That egoism enveloped my whole being and blinded me to the grim realities of the situation. I was therefore confident that he would get cured ultimately.
19-3-1950 was the Lunar New Year’s Day. From the time I had come here, it had been usual for me to offer to Bhagavan for his personal wear a khaddar towel and a kowpeenam and arrange for bhiksha in the Ashram that day. As I did not like to give it up this year, I took with me a towel and kowpeenam in the evening at about 7 o’clock of 18-3-1950, went into that small room accompanied by our postmaster, Raja Iyer. Bhagavan stared at me. I quietly placed the clothes on the table and said the next day was the Ugadi (New Year’s Day). Bhagavan started at that and said, “Is the Ugadi come? Is the Vikruti (the name of the new year) come?” There was something strange and perplexing in that voice. And I cannot explain why, but it seemed to forebode something disastrous and it was to me heartrending. The two attendants stood aghast. I too could say nothing and so mumbled, “I felt it would be inauspicious if I gave up my usual practice.” Bhagavan said, “Oh! What is there in that?” and looking at one of the attendants by name Anjaneyalu who was by his side, he said, “Keep those clothes carefully. Nagamma has brought them. Tomorrow it is Ugadi, it seems.” So saying, in a very gentle manner he gave us leave to go. As the attendants were removing the clothes, I went near the couch and asked Bhagavan, “How is the arm?” Bhagavan said, “What shall I say how it is?” I told Bhagavan, “You must somehow cure yourself.” Bhagavan replied, “Ahem. I cannot say anything now.” I pleaded with great humility, “How could you say that, Bhagavan?” Perhaps he felt that my hopes would not go unless he told me the bare truth and so looking at me with compassion, he said, “Ahem. Cure? What cure?” I said, “Ayyo! Will it not be cured?” Bhagavan replied, “Ahem. Cure? What cure? How could there be any cure now?” The previous assurance that there was nothing to worry about and nothing would happen — all of them disappeared at that moment and when I heard those words, my whole body shook with fear. My eyes filled with tears and my voice got choked. I wanted to ask about our fate for the future and so was trying to gather some composure of mind and open my lips when someone from the office came in hurriedly on some urgent work. I was startled by that noise and came out without asking what I wanted to ask and slowly retraced my steps to my hut. The next morning I thought of approaching Bhagavan again and ask for his final message, but could not get an opportunity. The resonant voice of Bhagavan that said, “Is the Ugadi come?” appeared to me to say, “All is over.” With that Ugadi the great privilege I had all these years of hearing and enjoying the nectar of Bhagavan’s voice ended.
On the evening of 14-4-1950, I went at 6-30 and stood in the queue arranged for an orderly darshan of Bhagavan and when I got up on the raised mound opposite the door of the room where Bhagavan was sitting, and stood there for a while with my sight concentrated on him and prayed to him mentally, “Oh Prabho! Won’t you for once radiate on me your compassionate look?” Bhagavan’s eyes slowly began to open and from those eyes, a mild and compassionate look came on me. That was the last time I had the great fortune of his compassionate look.
At 8-47 that night, Sri Ramana, the embodiment of light and enlightenment, left his mortal coil. When the mortal body of Gurudev, who was at once my mother, father, Guru and God and who has protected me all these years, ceased to be the abode of that great soul, I remained still as a statue, drowned in inexpressible grief and sorrow. The writing of these letters was begun on 21-11-1945 and continued uninterrupted all these days through the grace of Bhagavan, and with the end of the Avatar of Bhagavan, I am giving up the writing of these letters.
OM TAT SAT