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A Divine Fire

Unless we die, Father will not come in us. Kabir said:
“either you have God or the `I.’ There cannot be two swords
in one sheath. If God must come, `I’ must die.”
– Yogi
Ramsuratkumar


“Short term visitors … did not know that Yogi
Ramsuratkumar was a ruthless taskmaster who wielded a
flaming sword. To be near him with sincerity was to
experience a literal internal fire that spared nothing in
its path,” wrote Mariana Caplan, an American woman who was
drawn into close circle of disciples during a period at six
months in 1993.31

From her perspective, for the serious practitioner – one
who was approaching Yogi Ramsuratkumar for something beyond
relief of physical or emotional suffering, but rather for
the purpose of dying into him, in the sense that Kabir
described above – the work was often excruciating. “The
egoic self that I mistakenly know myself to be suffered more
intensely and more consistently in his company than in any
other circumstance prior to, or since, that time. Yet so
skillful was his capacity for egoic undoing that my ego
would be made to flail about as if being scorched alive,
while at the same time I would not know that he had anything
to do with the suffering I was enduring. The light of His
Self exposed my self – unadorned and unbuffered. To receive
the privilege of his Fire of Love was to agree to have
everything in its way burned to ash. These are not metaphors
– exaggerated words to describe an intense emotional
experience. It is my repeated experience of living in His
proximity.”32

In detailing some of her experiences, Mariana explained
that she was so attuned to him, by his grace, that his
smallest movement would create a profound energetic shift in
herself and others who were similarly resonant. “If he would
move his elbow, the whole process would change. That
movement became the world! We were in his work chamber. It
was a slow motion play in darshan, and we would go on this
energetic ride with him.”

Yogi Ramsuratkumar was literally a Divine furnace,
burning away the impurities of those who approached him.
“Every foot closer to his body, and the heat would rise
intensely – an inner heat that was physical and not physical
at the same time. When he called you up to give you prasad,
just stepping two feet closer meant more burning. You knew
you were fortunate, and you paid attention and you were
grateful, but it was so hot. As you were burning like that,
all the obstacles in between you and That would come up. So
the mind would throw the garbage and the thoughts really
fast. Meanwhile, he was giving you all this love. For me,
encountering my self-hatred, I was upset about what I was
doing in the face of all that blessing. There was such
frustration that I didn’t know how to receive that blessing
rightly. 33

Like many classic mystical accounts, Mariana described
feeling, “Lost … no mind … definitely not cognitive …
just in a `being’ space.”‘ The strongest overall impression
for her was that she was completely at the effect of his
love, his energy.

To this day Yogi Ramsuratkumar continues to be a dynamic
force in her life and in her sadhana.


The purifying fire of Yogi Ramsuratkumar was sometimes a
smoldering pile of embers, and on other days, a huge
conflagration. “I loved to see him embody opposites of moods
– move from sternness to kindness to peace to wittiness,
within seconds,” explained Kirsti, a female sadhaka who
lived most of her life in Tiruvannamalai. “He truly was
alive on a very personal level in all his interactions. Even
when he was `mean’ there was so much love and raw power
behind it that I could just wonder what was taking place.
His sternness or `meanness’ did not cling to mind or create
guilt or resentment. His joyous straightforwardness
prevented the mind from holding impressions of guilt or
resentment.”34

When an individual could profit from some direct
intervention, however, Yogi Ramsuratkumar did not hesitate
to intervene. One of his attendants for many years,
Selveraj, tells of a specific teaching communication that
included an angry and even sarcastic response from Yogi
Ramsuratkumar.

Typically, when Bhagwan’s car would arrive at the ashram,
Selveraj was there to meet it. He would hold out his hand
and the beggar would take it, saying “Thank you” with
gracious regard.

One day, however, when Bhagwan said “Thank you,” Selveraj
responded automatically, saying “Thank you” in return. The
unconscious nature of this response ignited the Godman’s
energy. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” he repeated, with
a tone of anger.

Selveraj pondered this interchange for a long time,
wondering if he had done something wrong in the past few
days that had warranted such a communication. On the
contrary, he finally understood that the mistake was not in
the past, but in the present. Yogi Ramsuratkumar expected
him to be alert in every moment. In saying “thank you”. in a
distracted manner, Selveraj had revealed his lack of
attention to his work.

“So, Bhagwan was slowly working my heart. This is the
main point. The guru will give the shock in a different way.
We should remember all the time, God, and we should not be
thinking about the things that have gone wrong.”35

A visitor from Canada was surprised one day when, in the
midst of his conversation with the beggar, Swamiji fell
asleep. As he received no response from the master, the
visitor soon left.

When Yogi Ramsuratkumar woke up, another man asked him,
“Swami, why did you fall asleep when that man was here?”

“Oh,” he said, “that man couldn’t hear what this beggar
had to say.”36


On January 25, 1979, two Indian gentlemen visited the
Yogi Ramsuratkumar late in the evening. They requested his
blessings for a fund that had recently been established,
named after a disciple of Ramalinga Swami. The master lay
back listening and observing with intensity. Suddenly, as if
moved by a strong wind, Yogi Ramsuratkumar sat up and
demanded with great urgency that they go back to Madras. The
two men were alarmed and confused, while Yogi Ramsuratkumar
assured them that he would pray for their cause. “Make
preparations to go to Madras. Go to Madras. I will pray.” He
handed the two men a packet of biscuits.

“Swami? Swami?” asked one man, as he reached around in
the darkness to find his shoes. He could not believe that
they were being ushered out for abruptly. Clearly, there was
no arguing with the beggar’s intention. He had his
reasons.37


Jai Ram, another close attendant, felt the heat of Yogi
Ramsuratkumar’s training in surrender. “It is very difficult
to work for him, because he used to call himself `mad.’ His
madness you could not predict. One day, He will suddenly
send you out [out of his presence, away from him].
The next day, when you see him he will ask, `What do you
feel?’ How he behaves in various situations, we cannot
describe. Every action of his will hammer our ego; in some
corner it will hit. We should not get into that
[meaning, not support the ego]. Then only we can do
his work. We have to learn this. You have to do exactly what
he wants, and that you have to grasp. It took a lot of
attention.”38

One way in which the master “hammered egos” was in giving
orders that had seemingly no logic or precedent. Sometimes
these orders were repeated two, three, four or more times
until the devotee received the message at the level it
needed to penetrate.38


Finally, Yogi Ramsuratkumar called Selveraj back for a
fourth time, and this time he called Mani as well. “Mani,
you tell Selveraj not to go there,” the beggar said, and
Mani did as directed.

“Bhagwan, I will not go without your permission. Not only
here, but wherever I go I will get permission from you,”
Selveraj said, his words invoking a solemn promise with
the

Godman.39

Paradoxically, this strange interaction marked the
beginning of his relationship of devotion and surrender to
Yogi Ramsuratkumar.


It didn’t take large gestures for Yogi Ramsuratkumar to
fry the ego of a visitor or devotee. It happened on several
occasions that a person who assumed that he or she knew
Bhagwan very well would tell Yogiji’s attendant, Selveraj,
to inform the Godman of their arrival. This Selveraj would
do. Nonetheless, when that person was presented to Bhagwan,
he might ask them, “What is your name?” – thereby totally
wounding the ego. Yogi Ramsuratkumar killed the ego many
times with that one simple question.40

Along similar lines, one time a swami came from Kerala,
did a very fancy puja, and received lots and lots of
attention from Yogi Ramsuratkumar. The next year, assuming
that he would receive the same fanfare, the man had someone
go to Bhagwan and say that he was there, announcing
self-assuredly, “He will see me right away.”

When Bhagwan got this news, he looked up and saw the man
standing by the back door. Yogiji sent word, “Let him sit at
the corner,” and arranged that a chair be brought to the
man, who sat in the corner for the rest of the program. The
beggar never called this man up to the dais.


In 1995, Selveraj was working for salary at the ashram,
but had not yet established a relationship of
devotee-to-guru with Yogi Ramsuratkumar. He had received
Mani’s permission

to go to his mother-in-law’s home for a holiday, but had
failed to inform Bhagwan.

“When I went to my house to get ready for the time to
leave, something was grabbing me to come back to the ashram.
I got the idea that I should drop that program [abandon
the idea of a holiday as previously determined],”
Selveraj explained.

But, before Selveraj could get there, Yogi Ramsuratkumar
arrived at the ashram. It was 10 A.M., just prior to the
morning darshan, and the Godchild was acutely aware that
Selveraj was missing.

“He was shouting at the top of his voice, `Where is
Selveraj? Where is Selveraj?’ and everybody got shocked.
Mani told that he had given permission.”

“If he goes there it is very dangerous. He should not go
there,” Yogiji said. Upon learning this information, the
Godman sent someone to Selveraj’s home, carrying the
message, “Bhagwan wants to see you.” The young man
immediately set out.

When Yogi Ramsuratkumar laid eyes on his attendant a few
minutes later, he studied him seriously and instructed:
“Selveraj, you don’t go. If you go, you will meet
[something] very dangerous.”

Instantly, the younger man replied, “Okay, Bhagwan,” and
then moved to take up his usual post at the temple door.

“Three times he called me back to him, and each time he
said the same thing; and each time I said, “Okay Bhagwan, I
won’t go there.”


pp. 422 – 425 Yogi Ramsuratkumar – Under the Punnai Tree.
M. Young. Holm Press, 2003.


“Right in the beginning he told me in so many words that
spiritual life requires the shedding of the ego. Lesson one,
lesson two, lesson three, lesson hundred, lesson
infinity!

In 1994 and 1995 Devaki and the Sudama sisters were
finding out what it means to live in close physical
proximity to the pervasive transformational power of Yogi
Ramsuratkumar. The spiritual master is like the sun in the
solar system: the closer you are to the sun’s rays, the
hotter it gets until you are incinerated – burned to a
crisp.

However, using the ideas as a metaphor for spiritual
life, annihilation of the separate self.

As Yogi Ramsuratkumar said, “The best sadhana is to be
nears one’s guru, to obey and serve him. All other sadhanas
are only after that. This is the best
sadhana.”1

1. Ma Devaki, “The Divine Beggar on Himself,”
Saranagatham, January 2003, p.33.


Devaki and the Sudama sisters were learning to live in
close proximity to a spiritual sun, and in order to serve
Yogi Ramsuratkumar in the way that they were call to do,
they had to be instructed, prepared and purified – they were
in a kind of spiritual boot camp, in training for being able
to “Father’s work.” They had renounced the world and worldly
desires, and their lives were not about sacrifice and
service, and Yogi Ramsuratkumar used the mundane
circumstances of daily life as the vessel in which the dross
was purified from the bodies and minds in order to reveal
the gold.

Much of their process of purification took place in the
ordinary circumstances of everyday activities. For example,
Yogi Ramsuratkumar had an extremely meticulous sensibility;
he wanted everything done in a certain way. From his point
of view, when something was placed on the table one fraction
of an inch off the mark as he saw it, it affected everything
– even the entire cosmos. Another form of purification was
the rigorous schedule the Sudama sisters kept, following
Bhagawan’s rhythms and commands regarding food, sleep and
activity.

It was already very clear that Devaki had to play a very
specific role; Bhagawan told them that she was the divine
mother, and that all the Sudama sisters should be considered
as “Ma’s.” They had absolutely no personal life. Everyone
was expected to obey Bhagawan implicitly, and to have no
voice in matters. For Vijayalakshmi, who had joined the
group also used to giving orders and being highly respected
in her job, this was not an easy task – nor was it easy for
any of the women. Yogi Ramsuratkumar expected a great and
arduous sadhana from all four of them.

If Devaki was reading to him and she fell asleep or even
closed her eyes for a few seconds, he would immediately wake
her up, saying, “Read!” If she had a bad headache, he
expected her to go on with her work. He would not allow her
to rest, and every day was filled with the rigorous schedule
of public darshans and all the needs of the burgeoning new
ashram. Bhagawan expected Devaki and Sudama sisters to be at
his side every moment of the day – whether they were sick,
healthy, happy, sad, tired or full of energy really didn’t
matter. The normal concerns of the human personality,
psychology or the needs of the physical body were not longer
relevant.

“No, no,” he would say if Devaki wanted to rest, “there
is no need for it! You just stay with this beggar, that will
do.” Sleep was not necessary. When Devaki became bitter
about her failings, saying, “Bhagawan, I fail so miserably!
What is the use of my living wit you, I’m not able to serve
you nicely?”

“Stop crying! You have a very bright future,” the beggar
admonished. “Father will shape you for this work!” At other
times, when the work was overwhelming and things seem bleak
with the criticisms and distrust that came from other
devotees, Devaki would get furious with herself and feel
powerless in the fact of her own shortcomings:

I would be miserable at my own failings and then if I
complained to him, he would say, “No, no, Devaki, you are
doing wonderful work for my Father. See…it is very
difficult to live with this beggar, even for half an hour,
Devaki. Even for half an hour. People cannot live with this
beggar for half an hour! Only Father wants to be with this
beggar. But Devaki has lived with this beggar so long.
Devaki is managing so well.” And then he would encourage me
with such nice words and love. He would be so nice to me at
that time, and then, he often said, “It is very difficult to
live with this beggar, for anybody. That itself is tapas.”
Just living with him adjusting to him. No matter how many
mistakes we make. It was a big challenge being with him
because, for one thing, I was a totally different kind of
personality. The first year was terrible to adjust, and he
made it very plain in the beginning that I would have to
surrender my ego!

The intensity that was felt in the presence of the beggar
saint was an experience shared by those who were close to
him. Ravi, the driver of his car, who held his hand several
times every day as he helped the beggar in and out of the
car and into Sudama House, the temple, dining hall or
wherever he was going, described this feeling as “heat and
pressure.” This was a subtle energetic phenomenon, and yet
it was a bodily experience as palpable and tangible as the
heart one experiences when standing in the hot noonday
Indian sun. Beyond this crucible of heat and pressure, at
every turn, at the slightest manifestation of ego on the
part of those who were close to him and served him daily,
the master pointed it out and corrected it, in one way or
another. Vijayalakshmi went through this process of
purification and more – the basic context with which she
approached life had to shift:

I used to feel really a match for him! I had very nice
quarrels with him! Looking back, I

wish I hadn’t, but then I was totally unexposed to
spiritual life. It was not a question of my not wanting to
let go of my ego, but, one never know about it, what exactly
it is. That is the real problem. I mean, how to become
something like zero, in no time at all? Right in the
beginning he told me in so many words that spiritual life
requires the shedding of the ego. Lesson one, lesson two,
lesson three, lesson hundred, lesson infinity!

When Yogi Ramsuratkumar gave a task to be done, he wanted
it done immediately. If he gave Devaki some small task and
she was gone from the room for five minutes he would be
calling, “Devaki! Devaki!” He was a relentless taskmaster in
one moment and in the next moment he was the divine child,
calling out for mother – “Devaki!” Then she would come and
show him how to do some very simple thing, “Like this,
Bhagawan,” she would say. All together, Yogi Ramsuratkumar
and the four women were a spiritual family, and often they
were like children together, with many playful interchanges,
laughter and the pure enjoyment of good company. Yogi
Ramsuratkumar’s marvelous spontaneity and sense of humor
came through at the most difficult times.

At other times, it was just tapas. When Devaki wasn’t
reading to Bhagawan for days on end, she was doing japa and
nama with the Sudama sisters, especially Vijayalakshmi,
until they were all exhausted. During one of these times
when she was sleeping only two or three hours at night; not
only was she exhausted, but her nerves were worn thin. When
Devaki finally protested to Yogi Ramsuratkumar in a flair of
anger, he started dancing. Devaki recalled:

One time when I had been up for days with no sleep, and
it was just going on and on, I got angry with him and
protested. He started dancing! This made me even angrier and
I imitated him – I started dancing too! And then he started
laughing, laughing, laughing, until I started laughing too.
This is how is was….we were a family together. It is
amazing how he avoided controversy and bad stories – a saint
living with four women! But he was so pure, so
stainless…

A primary focus of sadhana for Vijayalakshmi was to do
nama japa all day long. At time this became so all-consuming
that her head would spin in the morning and cause all kinds
of sensations to arise because of the power of the nama japa
and the spiritual forces it unleashed in her. Sometime she
cried from the sheer gratitude and love that she felt for
Bhagawan.