Thursday, 3 October 2019

‘Don’t Seek, Don’t Reject!’ – UG


UG

UG offered simple one-liners to deal with the many complexities of life. To a friend who was contemplating a career change despite a decent job, his advice was, “Don’t seek, don’t reject!”

UG’s recommendation for all those feverishly ‘engaged’ in search of truth, reality, enlightenment came in two simple words, - ‘Do Nothing!’

'Do Nothing’  like Wu Wei of Taoism, Chumma Iru of Sri Ramana has been the mantra of sages from time immemorial to lead a peaceful, burden free life. Our lives have been hijacked by thinking, as it were. ‘Do nothing’ is the ‘art of doing’ what needs to be done, and not doing what one wants to do or likes to do. ‘Do nothing’ is essentially to carry nothing (forward), thus setting aside the burden of ‘doership’ or ownership. Doership is such a huge psychological burden, an Albatross around one’s neck.

Any intent or motive for profit, gain, glory or outcome plays a crucial role in perpetuating the ‘doer’ or the ‘self’. Intent forms the glue that binds a million thoughts into the autobiographical ‘self’ or ‘agent’ or ‘thinker’. Doership legitimises the 'doer'.

Your right is to work only but never to the fruits there of  ” is the clarion call of the Bhagvad Gita. It exhorts us to simply do or execute the task at hand. This is doing what comes our way, what is inevitable and conscionable. This simple remedy discounts all the psychological buildup or the doership.

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The excessive or neurotic thinking that goes into planning what we should do or what we should not do with its cultural, moral, ethical undertones or overtones, is a debilitating burden on biology.

The relentless, needless analysis of what has already happened adds to the existing clutter, commotion and chaos.

Thinking about the future or the past is the single most factor in not living our lives. All acts of thinking and worrying guzzle away huge reserves of life energy and destroy vitality.

UG’s constant refrain was - ‘Stop Thinking, Start Living!’

UG’s simple remedies set aside the huge psychological burden and the pain of excessive thinking. We are left with only what is essential, what comes our way and what needs to be done.

The problem with us is we have placed such a high premium on thinking. Yet thinking cannot and will not solve the real problems of living – the problem of love, hate, jealousy, anger, greed, human misery.

This is not to discount the power of thought or thinking. It does help solve complex technical problems - how to send a probe to the moon, how to build the fastest jet, how to earn a livelihood. But its usefulness ends right there.

Life has its own flow, its own rhythm.

Thinking is but a mere shadow that can never catch up with the mighty flow of life. It is very difficult to see or realise the runaway dangers of thinking.

****


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

“What have you done to me?” - UG

UG - the sober 'raging sage' !



UG and the Vedic hymns - I

“What have you done to me?” UG used to exclaim after a recitation of Sri Rudram, a Vedic Hymn that he very often mentioned transported him to a trance-like state. Definitely Sri Rudram was foremost among UG’s favourites.

Chandrasekhar Babu, one of the longstanding  associates and a few others were indeed witness to UG’s responses to the chanting of some Vedic hymns.

During his final days in Vallecrosia, UG had sent word for Mahesh Bhatt to join him for one last time. Myself and Kamal met up with Mahesh late in the evening just before his departure to Italy and handed him an audio CD. The CD had all the audio tracks, UG ‘favourites’. It contained some famous Sanskrit hymns – Sri Rudram, Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam, Aditya Hridayam etc.

The chanting of hymns and also singing of bhajans happened at many UG portals in India but it was more sincere and regular in Bangalore. UG would never disappoint people who wanted to chant or sing before him and sometimes he would even prompt people to shed inhibitions and render the chants or songs. When chants began, often UG would squat on the floor and slip into a trance-like state. 
  
Recently when someone called my attention to this favourite hymn of UG’s, I was reminded of Babu’s recollection ( Stopped In Our Tracks) of how UG could indeed 'see' the seers or sages who were the original composers of this extraordinary hymn.

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What indeed was the magic of these hymns that held UG’s attention? 

Here is a humble attempt to capture the essence of one of those famous hymns - Sri Rudram  from the Yajurveda that UG  held in such high esteem.

Sri Rudram consists of two parts -  Namakam and Chamakam.

Namakam forms the first part  where the salutation  ‘NAMO’  ( or Namaste) is attached at the beginning and end of every verse.  Namo, Namo… can be heard innumerable times.

[ The second part of Sri Rudram is famously known as  Chamakam  - where the end of each line has a  CHA-ME  ( ‘cha me’ means  ‘let me have’   - ‘let me have this’ , ‘let me have that’ and so on. In this part one can hear Chame, Chame innumerable times.

In Chamakam, the sage is making an uncompromising appeal for robust health and all necessities of life to function with vigour and vitality and to discharge his duty towards family, proteges and the world.

Here the Vedic Seer is praying for everything that we might want to possess in our life sojourn - health, happiness, progeny, welfare of family, of servants, fun, sport, fame, name, success etc. The Seer does not compromise on his demands or settle for anything less, he wants the best - the very best of everything that life can offer! 

Chamakam, in a way, is a 'laundry list of human aspirations' in the words of the sages! This part of the hymn is also quite long.]

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When it comes to the first part, the Namakam, the Vedic Seer seems awestruck. He is overwhelmed by the infinitude and magnificence of Life, encompassing the whole of Universe with multiple dimensions and forms. The Seer, much like Arjuna in Bhagwad Gita, is overwhelmed, humbled and spellbound at the grandeur of Reality and can’t stop extolling, singing, heaping praise and respect and prostrating at every juncture! The delightful, revelatory outburst at the sheer spectacle of Life takes the shape of Namakam!

Namakam is therefore a salutation to Life in all of its infinite forms - the human aspect being just a teeny weeny part of creation.

This Hymn salutes the Lord or the animating Life Force in a zillion forms...the hymn salutes the 'illiterate' milkman, the water bearer, servants, labourers, farmers, blacksmiths,  goldsmiths, potters, horses, horse trainers, even the dogs and their masters, the soldiers, the Generals, the charioteers, the chariot makers ( carpenters), the traders, the ministers (especially the sages handpick the Commerce or Finance Ministers) as it is the Treasury and Economy that guide the destiny of the state and its people. The sages see the Universal Intelligence of the Lord behind the brilliance, strategy, economic wisdom of the sagely, egalitarian ministers of the state who run the lives of its people by overseeing proper distribution of wealth etc.

The Namakam flows on and salutes those holding lowest of lowly vocations, saluting the bird catchers, the fishermen, the hunters, smallest of the small, the biggest of the big, the infant, the aged…No one individual or no one form however tiny is inferior or unimportant.  Every form is an expression of Life!

Then the hymn  suddenly explodes , its scope suddenly expands by leaps and bounds and encompasses everything that we behold, everything that we see, salutes everything that provides support, nourishment and sustenance to living forms.

Salutations are now offered to huge water bodies, streams, rivers, small ponds, rain, clouds, wells, lakes, (the mineral-rich, nutrient rich, fertile) soil as well as marshy, dry and barren lands for all these play a role and are essential to support forms of life peculiar to each eco-system.

Salutations are also offered to various rock formations including mountains and valleys that sustain life on the planet (by stopping rain bearing clouds), salutations are offered to the Divine spark that is unseen but manifest in the brilliance of robbers, looters, smooth talkers, gangsters....this vista vision of the Vedic Seer is all inclusive and non-judgemental about the function of each and every creature recognising its role, its worth and its value in the grand scheme of things , recognising the invaluable, individual contribution of every creature to the maintenance and sustenance of the world.

In the closing verse, salutations are offered to our dwellings, habitats, every tiny atom, every speck of dust - everything that is seen or unseen in the Cosmos!

[An Indian  pundit  who went to the old Soviet Russia to do his research on Communism was snubbed by his professor that Russia could  never ever offer a model to Indians even remotely matching the ideal of Sri Rudram. Seems he reiterated that the Catholicism or the Universalism that is the bedrock of Vedic literature formed the basis of all forms of ‘isms’ in the world including communism, socialism etc.

Of course there has been a steady deterioration of this grand vision of the ancients over time on the  subcontinent and is nowhere to be seen today.]

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Note: 

The blogger humbly  stands corrected for any omissions or commissions on his part in daring to do this write-up. This has been culled from many sources, discourses, treatises on the wonderful, lofty hymn that upholds the Spirit of Humanity and the Oneness of Life.

I am grateful to all those speakers, writers and contributors. They are innumerable to enlist here, my salutations to all!



Thursday, 6 June 2019

UG and the unknown



UG and the ‘unknown’ ( Photo Source: Goner, Louis Brawley)


            Recently I and family spent a couple of weeks in a ‘medical resort’ renowned for Alternative Medicine on the outskirts of Bangalore. My wife was undergoing some treatments and therapies for some ailment and we all moved in with her to give her company.

            This excellent medical facility (kind of resort) is in a ‘green zone’ amid scenic setting that boasts of a peacock reserve forest.

            Every evening our family along with some inmates at the medical centre would gather in front of the facility and spend time under the clear skies enveloped all around by greenery. A few friendly dogs, mongrels that stayed on in the premises, stuck around the front yard keeping us company during these times.

            Here, during our short stay, we were to witness a strange phenomenon that occurred almost every evening.

Just before the nightly darkness devoured the twilight, we were invariably treated to a strange spectacle. The dogs lying about here and there on the front steps and the terrace, suddenly would sense something that was odd and eerie. Springing to their feet after apparently spotting ‘something in the air ’ they would all sprint towards the main gate, in a single pack! 

Barking, whining and howling ferociously at some 'invisible entity' that appeared to ‘hover in the air’ , they would follow it from the gate till the main entrance of the building. The furious cacophony that accompanied the ‘aerial movement’ invariably stopped near the main entrance. Their loud wails and hysterical shrieks slowly turned into feeble whimpers and groans and stopped after a little while. They would then go back to their places.

It would all be over, till the next evening! The same thing happened all over again. There was not even a hint afterward to suggest that anything had happened at all!

****

This triggered off my past memory when I went through some strange happenings at my place of stay. In the mid-80s and early 90s, I had rented a small terrace apartment in Bangalore. The place had a separate entry, a long narrow corridor that led up to a flight of stairs on to my terrace flat. A small iron gate secured the entry into the corridor from the street.

I lived there alone for quite sometime before a friend of mine joined me as a co-tenant. In those days I worked as a lecturer and he worked in a private company. Usually I returned home after my lectures late in the afternoon and would be all alone till my friend joined me late in the evening for dinner.

Sometimes while trying to catch some afternoon siesta, I would instead fall asleep only to be woken up by the typical whistling sounds of my friend and his footfall on the staircase. There was a large window in the living room that opened into the terrace. Any sound or movement either on the terrace or stairs would alert me to the coming of visitors.

On some days, as I would be busy preparing for my class or making evening coffee, I would be treated to the familiar sounds of footfall and the accompanying whistles of my friend. I would then whistle back in turn , flinging open the door and calling out his name, “Hi, buddy! You are early today!” But to my utter surprise, I would be greeted by an empty terrace, empty staircase and an empty corridor with no human anywhere in sight!

This happened time and time again and became a routine. Initially I was curious but since there was no rational explanation for such a thing, I let that be. I eventually got used to this strange invasion of my privacy!

****

That evening I was all alone in my room. My friend was out of town. I was tired and exhausted after a long day at the college and decided to retire early to bed. It was around 9 PM ( in those days Bangalore went to bed at 9 pm and all streets wore a deserted look by 10 PM). I was not particularly hungry, nor was I inclined to go out for dinner given my sheer exhaustion that day. Turning off the lights, I slumped into my bed. A few moments passed.

There was again the clear sound of footfall which came all the way up the stairs, and then stopped in front of my door. I wondered who it was and waited. I then heard a knock on the door. I heard the familiar voice of Shiva, a student of mine, a young man from a far-off suburb in Bangalore. I used to coach him. Sometimes he would come to my place for tuition and sleep over at my place after the tutoring session and then go home early morning the next day. I knew his family well and sometimes I paid them a visit at their farm house.

I got up, opened the door and welcomed Shiva and inquired about his food, luckily he had finished his dinner. Since I was very tired, I told him we could retire for the day and we could talk about the technical subject in the morning. We tried to catch some sleep.

Even as we were still exchanging pleasantries and notes, we heard the sound of footsteps once again and Shiva started to wonder who could it be, visiting me at this hour? I tried to think hard and suddenly recollected that this could be a colleague of mine who had invited me over to dinner at his place. He had requested  me to participate in an all-night session of ‘song and dance’ at his residential complex next to the Geetanjali Cinema ( now it is transformed into a famous shopping mall) in Malleswaram . The song and dance are a part of the famous nightly festivities of Durga Puja ( Nava Ratri festival). I was to join the music band that was performing that night, lending my voice to some tunes of Rabindra Sangeet ( a genre of music attributed to the prodigious Rabindranath Tagore).

As the clear sound of footfall approached the door, I reassured Shiva, “ I will offer some excuse to Naveen ( my colleague ) and pack him off. Nothing in the world can make me leave my bed tonight, not even Rabindra Sangeeth!” Saying thus, I got onto my feet. By now the sound of the footfall had almost reached the door, I flung the door open…and ….lo and behold! There was no one there! I stared into empty darkness!  

Shiva immediately sensed that something was amiss and sprung up on his bed. Even as I rushed out, I switched on the terrace lights and called out to Shiva, “ Shiva don’t waste time! Go out on the terrace, someone is playing pranks, check every nook and corner of the terrace. I am going down. I will check if anyone is hiding under the staircase or in the corridor or hiding behind the tree ( We had a huge tree in the backyard).”

The search took us a full five minutes; we didn’t spare any corner, either on the terrace or in the backyard. The gate at the end of the corridor remained untouched - bolted and secured. My landlord was out on vacation and the ground floor was dark and locked. Not a soul stirred anywhere in sight! The whole street was empty!

Even after we returned to our beds and made a vain attempt to sleep, the excitement was palpable. Shiva was visibly shaken and continued to sit upright on his bed trying to digest what had happened.

There was no more exchange of words, an uneasy silence descended on us.

Seconds ticked by!

Suddenly, we heard a loud knock on the door! This time there were no  footfalls even!

By now, the rational mind had given up! We both were exhausted and in no mood for another search. Search in this situation appeared futile and unfruitful!

Following the knock on the door, something unusual happened, the whole living room was suddenly flooded with a wonderful fragrance that lingered for a long time. First of its kind for me!

For the first time, I began to relax! I wanted the young man also to relax. I joked about the strange turn of events, “ Shiva, don’t you worry! This could be a friendly spirit who knows that I am all alone here and wants to give me some much needed company!”

All these strange occurrences made absolutely no sense to me.

****

My first meeting with UG was in Poornakuti in the year 1992, I had continued to stay alone in my terrace apartment. Several friends came by and left my abode.

After one of his trips to Madras ( Chennai), UG was back in Bangalore addressing his friends. He recounted that he had met up with a young couple, both practicing advocates, who had come to him seeking solution for a ‘spooky’ encounter! In fact they wanted to invite UG to their home to solve the problem and exorcise some ghost that had started troubling them, especially during the nights! There were rumbling and tumbling noises of vessels in their kitchen during nights that disturbed them terribly. They could not sleep. UG told them that there were no such things as ghosts and that they need not worry about trifling things! 

The couple came back the following day and profusely thanked UG. After reporting their problem to UG the previous day, they went back to their place and spent a peaceful night for the first time in many months. They heard no more disturbing sounds in the kitchen!

This incident emboldened me to bring up the strange occurrences in my own place and query UG about them. I had not discussed this with anyone else before. It all sounded like so much poppycock! But with UG one never knew! He might look at it differently!

When I finally got the opportunity to be with him alone, I asked UG whether I could discuss my strange encounters with him. Surprisingly he agreed and gave me his patient hearing.

After the narration, UG began, “ Sir! Once I was invited by Brahmachari ( Sivarama Sharma) to stay in his Jnanashram ( near Bannerghatta Reserve Forest, Bangalore). He insisted that I should sleep in the main hall while he preferred to sleep in the veranda.  [i] I found his proposal quite odd but still agreed to do as he pleased.

Somewhere in the middle of that night, I was suddenly woken up! I felt very cold. My hands and feet, my whole body was frozen! I was unable to move. I suddenly glanced at the wall. I saw ( the apparition of ) a beautiful lady, clad in a white sari, bedecked in gold ornaments, oh ! She had lots of jewelry

…the next morning, I mentioned about this to Brahmachari, he told me that a young woman had been murdered there for property and that the place was haunted…I now understood why Brahmachari was so particular that I should sleep in the hall...there is a belief among people that the presence of an enlightened being helps in exorcising ghosts, emancipating them. I really don't know!”
****
In his book, ‘The Goner’, Louis Brawley recounts an incident where he finds UG gesturing to someone behind him, “ Scoundrels, filthy scoundrels” and when Louis sees no one standing behind and UG talking to thin air, UG  jokingly tells Louis, “ Just because you don’t see them, doesn’t mean they are not there!”

Yet another young couple in Bangalore , very close to UG went through some eerie occurrences. The young lady could see the apparition of a woman ( incidentally murdered and buried in a dry well on which their residential complex was built. Subsequently the foul play ( I believe) was discovered, and the body exhumed and given a proper burial).

The young lady in question was really scared and approached UG but he put his foot down and rejected her proposal to move over to a different place saying,   “ Why are you so scared? You have done 'her' no harm! 'She' would do you no harm! Leave 'her' alone! ” and when pleas for permission to shift to a new house continued unabated, he raised a red flag, “ Be warned, I am telling you, don't change your place! If you shift to another place, it will also move over with you to the new place!”

Thanks to UG, the young lady eventually developed enough strength to carry on with her life despite all the eerie happenings in her place!

****

UG’s long time associate Chandrasekhar Babu says that UG always preferred to stay in 'haunted' homes and mansions as they were cheap or even free to stay!


[i] ( Incidentally this was the place where UG was woken up by the king cobra the next morning and together they began their morning walks! This incidence is covered in the blog on fearhttps://ugunplugged.blogspot.com/2016/01/you-are-nothing-but-fear-ug.html!)

Thursday, 4 April 2019

UG and Major Dakshinamurti - Suresh Natarajan



UG and Major



It was a pleasant surprise to receive the following intense and devout piece of writing from Suresh Natarajan about Major Dakshinamurthi, a close associate of UG, majorly impacted by the sage.

The most interesting part of the write-up is the impact of UG and Ajja, the living sages of our times, on the life of an intense individual, a ‘sadhaka’ or ‘seeker of Truth’, caught up in self-doubt and conflict, torn asunder by dichotomy. The sagely and timely guidance and pointers along the journey are unmistakable and remarkable.

The narrative highlights how UG employed his uncanny ability to let individuals discover their true inner strength by precipitating life situations and circumstances. UG would grab you by the scruff of the neck and thrust you to face situations, giving you no choice, letting you stare at your deepest fears, uncover your secret desires and overcome debilitating and paralysing weaknesses. “Face it!” was UG’s motto.

Major’s story finds resonance in our individual struggles with life and makes for eminent reading!

Major is a rare human being, frighteningly candid and fiercely open. Regardless of recency of friendship, he could boldly open up about his flaws, foibles, frailties that could make some of us cringe as we try to hide away from ourselves. We are scared and relentlessly seek ways to escape from our ugliness and do everything possible in our means to hide our limitations, weaknesses, yearnings and temptations. We struggle hard to disown the ‘burden of guilt and shame’ ( a cultural imposition as per UG) that could dent and dwarf our self-image (UG vigorously debunked the reality of the ‘self’).

Major is refreshingly different. He could wax eloquent about his sex drives, deepest secrets, weaknesses, desires, ambitions, cravings, frustrations that once haunted and tormented him ( yes, he seems to be at total peace with himself these days!) without batting an eyelid. That is his endearing quality!

‘Sadhana’ is about leading a conflict-free life with environment and society, the crux being the realisation that ‘one is not separate from the wholeness of life’. Sadhana meant everything for Major during the prime of his youth, the difficult years! His single-minded devotion to follow the dictates of conscience, despite all odds, and his ever so close association with ‘real humans’ ( the Chinese equivalent for sages) like UG and Ajja enabled him to grasp the many dimensions of psyche that could pose serious problems otherwise and affect us terribly in many ways.  Despite his deep learnings, Major is very much open and grounded.

I am thankful and grateful to Suresh Natarajan for his wonderful and inspiring write-up!

Suresh Natarajan is a former techie who worked in the US for many years and moved back to India and quit his career upon being drawn to the inner journey. After a long search through the entire spiritual landscape and teachers of all shades that India is quite expert at producing, he found the most authentic integrity of teaching and living in Sri Ramana Maharshi (called the "real McCoy" by UG). Subsequently, he also came across UG and found his direct expression and the living that reflected it to be most powerful. All intellectualizing and attempts to "figure it out" stopped, thanks to UG. Now he spends his time in India and the US, dedicated to his inner journey as shown by Sri Ramana and meeting co-travelers in the journey as and when life presents them.

Over to Suresh Natarajan…..

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This is a long write-up on a rare ascetic that I was fortunate to meet called Major Dakshinamurti, who has led a very dedicated life of sadhana, coming across many authentic spiritual teachers in person and now in his seventies, abiding in a state of peace and joy within in a secluded place outside Bangalore.
I felt a great inspiration to re-dedicate myself to sadhana upon hearing his story and writing it. I am certain that it will be of similar inspiration for all the seekers who read it. Thank you.
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Major Dakshinamurti started his spiritual journey precisely on April 15, 1950 as an eight-year-old boy while sitting next to his father who was reading the newspaper. The father read out that the great sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, had passed away the previous day. The boy asked his father about this sage and the father said Ramana Maharshi came as a young boy to the holy Arunachala mountain in Tiruvannamalai and sat in the caves there for many years wearing just a loin cloth and deeply absorbed in samadhi, unmindful of even insects and ants eating into his flesh until some people rescued him and took care of his body. This image of a young boy sitting in a cave in meditation wearing only a loin cloth haunted the eight-year-old Dakshinamurti from then onward. Incidentally, it was his father who had given him the name Dakshinamurti as he had been writing a commentary on the famous Dakshinamurti Stotra - a crown jewel among Shankara's works on advaita (non-duality) - when the child was born. A most appropriate name to one who'd go on to dedicate his entire life to advaita sadhana and realization. And now the father started off his sadhana too by introducing him to the great sage of Arunachala.

Years went by and Dakshinamurthi joined the Indian National Cadet Corps (NCC) in his college days. Through NCC, he was selected for army officers' training and he had to go to Dehradun near the Himalayas to attend the training. Here too, when he took the train for the first time to leave his native place in Andhra Pradesh to attend the army training, as he went to the railway platform to pick up a magazine in a book stall, he ended up picking Arthur Osborne's biography of Sri Ramana Maharshi - a book quite unusual to find in a railway station book stall. He would go on to lead a service of 20 years in the Indian army as he rose up to the rank of a Major.

While in the army, he'd come down south to his native place whenever there was leave. And in his house back in his hometown lived as tenant a remarkable man who was a professor of Telugu, a body builder, an ashtavadhani (ability to concentrate on eight literary tasks at the same time) and also a sincere seeker. He later went on to become the head of the Courtalam Mouna Swami Mutt. This professor took Major during one of his trips to his hometown to a lady saint called Anasuya Devi also known as Jillelamudi Amma. Major was very impressed by Amma who constantly spoke of the universal presence of the Divine Mother. Her Ashram too generously helped the poor and the needy. So Major spent time in this Ashram whenever he could. He also met his future wife there and soon enough married her. Major was very close to his wife and they were both very sincerely devoted to Jillelamudi Amma. Major took his wife to live in North India leading the army life but during all the leave time he had, they'd come down south to spend time at the Ashram and follow Jillelamudi Amma's instructions for sadhana.

But three years after getting married, his wife was suddenly afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis and eventually got confined to a wheelchair. Because of this, Major did not attend any social gatherings for many years and instead spent time primarily taking care of her and taking her around while continuing to lead his army life and spending time in Jillelamudi Amma's Ashram. Sometime later, Jillelamudi Amma passed away so they would go to Madras often where Major regularly attended talks by J. Krishnamurti in Vasant Vihar. He also started reading many books of J. Krishnamurti and his teaching of choiceless awareness of what is and denying the past and future to remain attentive to the present resonated deeply with Major.

Major continued to take care of his wheelchair bound wife with great love, providing her the best possible medical care. He expected that due to the care and also mainly his spiritual sadhana, her condition would improve by some miracle but since that was not happening, he started taking an interest in Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramahamsa Yogananda's Yogoda Satsang Society (YSS). The famous book "Autobiography of a Yogi" has many miracles reported by Yogananda and there is a general association and expectation of such miracles with Kriya Yoga for many aspirants. Major also sincerely took up Kriya Yoga with similar expectations of a cure for his wife. It was around 1979 that he started taking the lessons and after a year, he got initiated into the Kriya Yoga practice. He kept the practice for a total of 11 years. While doing so, he had experiences of different sounds of Om but did not find anything happening with his Kundalini energy and neither did his wife's condition improve.

****

In the year 1980, Major was posted in Secunderabad as  part of his army duty. And while living there with his wife, once the famous lady sage Sri Anandamayi Ma visited the city. The then Chief Minister of the state, Dr. Channa Reddy, organized a big satsangh function for Sri Anandamayi Ma in his residence and threw it open to the public. Major took his wife to attend the satsangh where many bhajans (devotional songs) were sung in the presence of Ma. After the program ended, Dr. Channa Reddy noticed the wheelchair bound lady with her army major husband and invited her to garland Ma by giving her a big flower garland. Anandamayi Ma came near, put her hands on his wife's head and said three times "Bhagavan ka naam lo, beti" ("Take the Lord's name, child"). Major was struck by the aura of Anandamayi Ma, the energy and purity she radiated. Ma left her body within two years after that incident, so he felt so blessed and fortunate to have met her in person.

After a while, Major quit his army job and took up a civil service job in the town of Chittoor, only 50 miles from Tiruvannamalai - the holy town at the base of the Arunachala mountain. So Major now was able to go frequently and spend time in Ramana Ashram, thus resuming his interest in the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi. He would also visit the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry during his travels but mostly spent a lot of time in Ramana Ashram where it was really easy to get accommodation then.

The first time he went to the Ashram, he met Balarama Reddy, a fellow Andhra-ite and an old disciple of the Maharshi. Balarama Reddy narrated an incident in that very first meeting itself that made a deep impact on Major. Once when the Maharshi was alive, another Telugu Swami who lived in the Himalayas in a picturesque place called the Valley of Flowers had come to the Ashram and while leaving, asked Balarama Reddy to come with him for a while. Balarama Reddy asked for the Maharshi's permission and went off with the Telugu Swami to stay with him for a month. Upon coming back, he couldn't contain himself about the beauty of the place he was in and so started talking loudly in the presence of Maharshi about the lush green Himalayan abode he had stayed at for a month. Ramana Maharshi heard him speak and immediately cut him short saying "Instead of looking for such scraps of pleasure that come and go, why not find the real nature of your Self which is the infinite reservoir of happiness being one with the Supreme?". This made Balarama Reddy realize his folly immediately and brought his outgoing attention inward again. Hearing this story directly from Balarama Reddy, Major was deeply moved and it tremendously increased his commitment to sadhana.

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On one such travel to Arunachala, he also met Annamalai Swami, another senior disciple of the Maharshi. He was sitting with the Swami and somebody criticized devotees of Yogi Ram Surat Kumar for aggressively collecting money to build an ashram there. Annamalai Swami immediately stopped it, saying it is not our place to criticize anyone and narrated another incident from the Maharshi's life. Perumal Swami, an early disciple of the Maharshi, somehow turned sour on the Maharshi and wrote a slanderous book criticizing the Maharshi. When someone went and complained to the Maharshi about this, Sri Ramana said, "Why are you complaining? It is a good thing. Buy a bulk of those books and put it in the entrance so that people may stop coming here after reading it!". There are many such instances of Sri Ramana Maharshi returning hatred with love and hearing this narrated by Annamalai Swami again left a great impression on Major.

Major realized that among the millions of species on this planet, only human beings have a unique set of problems such as boredom, worry, addiction and suicide. All this is because the mind or thought has become so powerful and taken over the organism. Therefore he reasoned that the only solution is to still the mind and the senses. This required being free of all desires and responding to only those thoughts that are based on needs. He wondered if it is even possible to live in such a state of stillness by oneself and the image that flashed across him each time was that of Ramana Maharshi.

Meanwhile Major was still keeping up his Kriya Yoga practice for the past 11 years till then. And in 1990, he finally stopped it when the next chapter in his sadhana began after he met UG Krishnamurti, known simply as UG. It all started off in the Aurobindo Ashram book shop in Pondicherry where Major found a book of UG and was very intrigued by it. He made a few calls to friends and relatives who were connected and soon enough, got in touch with Chandrashekar Babu in Bangalore whose place UG visited regularly while in India. So the next time UG was supposed to come to Bangalore, Babu intimated Major ahead of time and Major came to Bangalore the previous day with his wife and stayed in the Army quarters there to meet UG the next morning. But when he rang up Babu's house to find out when to come, Babu's wife Suguna told him that due to a sudden change in plans, UG had left Bangalore immediately. Major called Babu again in the evening and he asked us to come the next morning. Babu's wife Suguna was very courteous and asked them to spend some time anyway in their place and played a video of UG for them to watch. This video was the first time Major, along with his wife, saw and heard UG.

Then they left the same day by car to their hometown in Andhra Pradesh. Suddenly and unexpectedly on the way, Major's wife developed a heavy pain in her chest. Major rushed her to doctors as they reached town but it was of no avail. The doctors said she was going through a major cardiac arrest which was quite unexplainable given she had no history of heart problems. Within one week of seeing UG, she died in Nellore in his brother's care on Dec 30, 1989. She had been living a life bound to wheelchair in constant pain and the medical prognosis was for her to be in that condition for a long time which meant great suffering for many years. Major somehow felt that just seeing UG freed her of all the years of suffering by giving her instant relief from the body while also freeing him of the burden of taking care of her for many years.

Major carried out his wife's funeral ceremony for thirteen days as per tradition. And literally by the time the ceremonies got over, his brother came up with a proposal for him to re-marry as he was still quite young. The prospective bride was a niece of his friend, a well-educated woman practicing as a gynaecologist with a good income so that Major doesn't have to worry about his finances too. All the close relatives made a convincing case for Major to get remarried, so Major just told them to give him some time to sleep over it before getting back. As he went to sleep, suddenly a similar incident in the life of Sivaprakasham Pillai, a senior devotee of Ramana Maharshi and much older than the Maharshi, flashed in his mind. Sivaprakasham Pillai faced a similar predicament of having his lost his young wife to death and therefore asked by friends and relatives to remarry. He decided that he would do so only after getting the permission of Ramana Maharshi and so went to Tiruvannamalai to meet him. When he went up to the cave where Sri Ramana was living then, he found the Maharshi surrounded by many people which was quite atypical those days. So Pillai thought he would come back later to meet Maharshi as this is a personal matter and needs to be discussed in private. When he came back later that day to the cave, he again found too many people around the Maharshi. This went on for three days when every time he went, he just couldn't find the Maharshi alone, though he used to easily do so in all his earlier visits. Then it suddenly struck him as to how foolish he was in even trying to broach such a topic with the Maharshi. He reflected, "While the Maharshi had left his family at the tender age of sixteen to come to Arunachala and has been living with just a loin cloth since then, I have not only lived married life already once but now want to do so again! What does it show about my commitment to sadhana? No wonder Maharshi did not present himself alone even once for me to broach such a topic!". So he took it as a sign of grace from Sri Ramana and resolved to never marry again, but give his life up totally to sadhana and became one of the foremost disciples of Maharshi. Eventually when he passed away, a telegram was sent by his brother to Maharshi that Sivaprakasham Pillai has expired. Upon seeing the telegram, Maharshi simply said "Sivaprakasham Sivaprakasham aanaar" meaning that Sivaprakasham attained the light of Siva, pure consciousness. A rare, high praise from the Maharshi himself! Once this incident flashed before Major's eyes, the decision was clear to him too. He woke up the next morning and told all his relatives that he was done with married life and now going to commit the rest of his life to sadhana.

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Major  went to Bangalore right after the ceremonies were over. UG was back in Bangalore by then and available to meet. From then on, Major started spending a lot of time with UG whenever he was in town. Major had quit his job by then and was planning to settle down in Tiruvannamalai. Major asked UG for a sadhana to do while living there. He was doing three hours of Kriya Yoga sadhana every day and UG told him to give up all that. Major then asked what would he do then since he had quit his job and so asked UG for a sadhana. Incidentally Major felt he is likely the only person to have asked UG for a sadhana as normally UG doesn't encourage any sadhana of any kind and people around him don't ask him for one either. But when asked, UG gave a beautiful sadhana to Major: "Surrender and stay still. Surrender not to some imaginary conception of God but to life itself and remain still". This was the highest sadhana that Sri Ramana Maharshi also recommends and Major took upon it in right earnest. Meanwhile, UG was also constantly hammering Major by insulting, ill-treating and snubbing him at every turn for eight years, apparently to destroy his swagger that years in the army had given him. UG used to say that anything beyond the three needs of the body - food, clothing and shelter - is unnecessary. UG used to say, "You are entertaining your thoughts instead of saying I don't want it. If you don't entertain them, they will vanish on their own". Upon hearing this, Major recalled Ramana Maharshi once telling Paul Brunton something to the same effect: "You exist as you really are and all the thoughts will disappear on their own". The substance was the same, but the style was radically different, much more blunt in the case of UG!

By then, UG suggested that they all go to a hill station to spend some quiet time in a cool place.  Major suggested Yercaud which is near Salem in Tamil Nadu and so off they went with Major driving UG and Chandrashekhar Babu from Bangalore. Once they reached Yercaud, UG took them all the way to a remote corner on the top of the mountain where nobody visited and found an estate there for rent. He immediately took the place for rent for 4 years and asked Major to move there while UG would come and go depending on his travels. This happened in June 1992 and from then onward, Major spent the next four years in the quiet and solitude of the estate in Yercaud and having the company of UG and friends only for a few months when they were in India. While living alone in Yercaud, Major dedicated himself to his sadhana as much as he could, while fighting off the vasanas (tendencies) that the mind was constantly throwing up to distract him.

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After the four year lease of the estate that UG had paid for got over in Yercaud, Major moved to Bangalore. There again, he was fortunate to be able to rent a farm house away from the city in solitude and quiet, where he lives till date. With his meager means, he couldn't normally afford to rent a farm house but this farm house had witnessed some burglaries recently and therefore the owners were ready to rent it off for a low rent. Major took it as another act of grace and continued to dedicate himself to sadhana in the new place. He also wanted to build an extra room in the cottage there so that UG can come and stay with him whenever he visited Bangalore., So he spent Rs. 60,000 of his savings which was a big amount for him to build the extra room. He then invited UG for the opening ceremony of the room done in a traditional way and UG quite atypically took the time to explain the Sanskrit shlokas (chants) recited on the occasion. UG also insisted that he pay Major the amount he spent from his savings to build the room especially as it was hardly a week's worth of expenditure for UG in the west. But Major flatly refused to take any money, saying that he built the room only to spend time with UG for his own personal gain of having more association in his farm house with UG, so he cannot accept money for that. Another incident that happened while living in the farm house is worth noting as another display of divine guidance. After Major moved in, the burglaries continued in the farm house with the nearby villagers every once in a while stealing away various articles, fresh fruits, wood etc. He was thinking on the lines of boosting security, calling the police etc when he came across a similar incident in a book about Anandamayi Ma. When someone complained to her that they were facing thieves robbing them constantly, Ma said don't complain about them but realize that they are Ishwara Swaroopa (forms of God) doing what they are supposed to do! Major took this to heart upon reading it and decided that very moment to never complain about the burglaries anymore but see them as Ma indicated them to be. Lo and behold, from that day on, not a single burglary has happened!

Through all those years first in Yercaud and then now in the farm house, though Major was dedicated to do the sadhana as prescribed by UG, it was easier said than done of course. Major had too many worldly desires tormenting him from a very young age and they continued to do so. He had a tremendous desire for sex with many beautiful women he had met as a young man while in the army but somehow restrained himself from going down that path. Then his wife's health condition soon after getting married meant he had hardly any conjugal pleasure during his marriage either. So after his wife had died and now living alone, he was distracted powerfully by carnal desires. It was his morals that prevented him from acting out on these desires but UG kept taunting him by saying a moralist is a frightened chicken! UG would bring up the topic of hitching Major with a woman in front of many including Major's close relatives and friends, much to his discomfort. He once asked Mahesh Bhatt, another UG friend and movie director, to help Major get a nice woman from Bombay. Similarly, once during a lunch in Madras, UG brought up the same issue in front of Major's own sister which embarrassed Major to no end, especially as such issues are normally never touched upon in Indian families! Finally UG started talking about making some serious arrangements to hook up Major with an air hostess from Australia and this proved to be the last straw for Major. He countered UG strongly by saying "Is my desire going to go away if I indulge in it? Why are you pushing me towards women and marriage when I am least interested in it. I want to only focus on my sadhana." UG then dropped the issue after that. Perhaps he wanted to test his commitment by constantly tempting Major and stopped only after he got convinced of Major's dedication!

Nevertheless, the desire itself did not leave Major and he was hoping all along that UG would destroy his sex desire. Instead UG only did the opposite by pushing him towards marriage and women. This required Major to meet with another enlightened being in his life - Ajja from Puttur, Karnataka. By then, Major was spending a lot of time with UG whenever he was in India but found that UG's idiom was too westernized. UG had destroyed all the doubts and questions Major had, but still Major yearned to meet a sage more rooted in the tradition to help get rid of the obstacles to his sadhana.

Then a friend said Ajja, an uneducated, Kannada speaking enlightened being, wanted to visit UG and therefore arranged for Ajja to come to Major's farm house where UG was staying then. In that first meeting, UG had the floor to himself as always, talking very eloquently on all topics while Ajja didn't say much. Major didn't find anything impressive or charming in Ajja in that encounter. But again, in a month, Ajja came to meet UG and this time when a spiritual question was asked by one of the twenty odd people assembled, UG very uncharacteristically yielded the floor completely to Ajja. Ajja spoke for an hour uninterrupted by UG - something that never happens normally around UG! One thing that Major remembered distinctly was Ajja saying that the sum total of all transactional activities in the world is itself what is called spirituality. Overall Major this time found Ajja to be very impressive and had no doubt that this was another realized being. The next day Major asked UG, "You mastered Upanishads, had a philosophy study in college etc. and then got liberated. Suppose an uneducated man got liberated, how would that be?". UG immediately said that the power that is responsible for the entire creation will be vested in that man and will shine powerfully through him.

From then on, Major also started meeting Ajja more often in his ashram in Putthur, which is 30 miles from Mangalore. The first time Major went to his ashram was on July 16, 2000 which happened to be the auspicious Guru Purnima day, the full moon day in July every year celebrated as mark of reverence for the Guru. Major would sit silently in his presence and Ajja was very affectionate and tender towards him. This was in contrast to UG who never missed a chance to snub Major! When asked for liberation by others as Major was sitting quietly, Ajja always said first develop an ethical foundation before seeking liberation. This too was quite different from the approach of UG. Ajja said there are many celestial beings looking for humans with a strong ethical foundation to bestow liberation and therefore it is essential to develop the ethical foundation. When two American sannyasis came to meet Ajja, they asked him evidently with great pride, "I am turning the Om sound around the chakras. Should I move it to sahasrara?". And Ajja told them bluntly "Why are you talking of chakras when you are constantly thinking of women?!". They became silent immediately and left in a while. Ajja had a tremendous impact on Major, especially with regard to his sexual desires which troubled him for many years and acted as a big obstacle to his sadhana. Once while sitting in the silent presence of Ajja, Major felt that Ajja would grant any boon that he asks for now and so Major silently prayed three times "Please destroy my sex desire". And soon found that Ajja had destroyed the sex desire completely and wiped the slate clean!

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There is a verse in the Bhagavad Gita where Arjuna asks Krishna about how does a realized man who is inwardly still talk, act and move about. Because to actually observe an enlightened being is a greater source of teaching than all that words can convey. Major felt very fortunate to be able to observe in close quarters and absorb various lessons from the way UG and Ajja dealt with everyday situations.

One of the main things UG would always insist was that one's detachment from money is the litmus test for one's liberation. The more attached to money, the farther away from liberation. This was of course in total contrast to the money maxims UG later came up with for whatever reasons. UG gave Major three rules to deal with money that will free him from worrying about it. First, never think twice to spend money when it is necessary. Second, never bargain. Third, never worry about where the money will come from. While they may not be logically sound to a financial planner, Major has followed these rules till date and been able to live a rich life despite having very meager sources of money. The other aspect UG drilled into Major was to control one's tongue and eat very simply. UG was an expert cook and yet he would make only one item for each meal. And if somebody else cooked and made multiple dishes, he'd get furious and say, "you people eat like pigs, swines and hogs rolled into one!". So it was always idli for breakfast while in India and that too mostly with just ghee and not even chutney or any other side dish. And it was oatmeal while in the west. Lunch and dinner were similarly just one simple item like upma (which UG would cook so well and happened to be one of his staple diets). Major took this to heart and even now, makes only one item for each meal and finds that the same food tastes delicious each meal.

While offering such precious lessons in dealing with many everyday situations, UG also tempted Major with various worldly desires such as women as already mentioned or traveling the world with UG which was yet another latent desire Major had for a long time from childhood. And UG really tempted him to do so by asking him to join UG in Switzerland, US etc. Major again had this clarity when presented with this temptation that this is his outgoing tendencies that want him to travel the world and it will take him away from his sadhana. So he sternly refused UG's offer despite UG persisting with it multiple times just as he did with marriage proposals!

            Apart from constantly tempting him and taunting him, UG also constantly put him down in front of other people. Also quite inexplicably, UG was found siding with those teaching him curse words which he started using liberally in his later years and those indulging in many hedonistic pursuits, while ill-treating Major all the time. It bothered Major until another close UG associate called Gopinath one day made Major see it in a different light. He said if he treats those people the way he treats Major, they'd run away. So UG keeps them next to him by being nice to them and slowly purify them. And this in fact is what happened as many of them gave up meat, alcohol etc. over time. Whereas, Gopinath said, because you can take it, UG gives you the rough treatment which is like cutting faces on a diamond. Major too realized that this must be the case as UG was most compassionate with anyone who came to him, keeping his door always open for visitors and such a man ill-treating him must also be for his higher good. And very recently, he got confirmation of this from the last hostess of UG, Lucia from Italy, in whose house UG breathed his last. Lucia came to Major's farm house on her recent visit to India to especially meet him and convey that UG always spoke very fondly of Major. This was in fact quite a surprise for Major to hear as UG never gave that impression to Major while in person. Major felt that UG did all that he did through their many years of association to grind his ego to pulp and felt deeply grateful for that.

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Similarly, Major got many lessons from Ajja by observing him interact with so many other seekers. Once a seeker who was a family man running a shop in the town came to Ajja and said he wants to go off to Himalayas and sit in meditation. Ajja asked him simply if you meditate with eyes opened or closed. He replied closed of course. Then Ajja said once you close the eyes, what difference does it make if you are in Himalayas or in your town! So just stay here and continue your meditation was the instruction. Another time, someone came and asked about sthitaprajna (still and unmoving consciousness) that is being referred in the Bhagavad Gita. Ajja cut him short by saying you have to first have the quality of dejection with the world and state of surrender that Arjuna had before coming to ask these questions. Another incident happened with a rich doctor who came to meet Ajja. He asked Ajja, "What happened to you?". Ajja replied that whatever was inside went away and a huge power has entered. When asked what is the evidence, Ajja didn't reply but just remained silent. A month later, this doctor called the Ashram to say that his third son's blood pressure has come down drastically and he has collapsed. They were not able to even resuscitate him and so asked this to be informed to Ajja. The person who answered the phone was a close associate of Ajja and he knew that if Ajja's head is covered, he should not be disturbed. And since the head was covered, he didn't inform Ajja of the phone call. Ten minutes later, another call came from the same doctor to inform that the son had died. Again he didn't inform Ajja. Then thirty minutes later, came the last call now to inform that the son came back to life! All the while, Ajja was remaining with his head covered. A month later, the doctor came to the Ashram with that son and told Ajja that he refused to go to school anymore, addresses me and his mother by name and behaves in seemingly weird ways. Ajja simply replied that this boy has no need to go to school anymore and you have to learn from him! And he looked at the boy and told him to just remain silent. Major felt a tremendous power in the presence of Ajja and credits Ajja with getting rid of his arishadvargas or the six enemies of man and obstacles to realizing one's true nature: kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (attachment), mada (pride), and matsarya (jealousy). And he spent a lot of time with Ajja too in those years.

Eventually both UG and Ajja passed away in 2007 within a few days of each other. And Major felt that while it was a privilege to be in close quarters with jivanmuktas (liberated beings) and felt they had tremendously helped him, he still didn't find his inner life to be much different from what it was many years ago. Another eight years passed by and Major felt he was still not having any taste of true peace or inner joy and felt instead not even able to get good sleep on a regular basis. He felt he had actually even regressed in his sadhana, his mind was tormenting him and he was literally stumbling through days without any real peace. Being with UG for a long time had taken away any feeling of bhakti (devotion). And Major felt he was not ready for direct jnana (wisdom) either. This was driven home when his sister got him a book called Upadesa Manjari which is a record of questions and answers by Ramana Maharshi. To one of the questions there, Sri Ramana answered that self-inquiry or the path of jnana was only meant for uttama adhikaris (highly qualified) who have cleansed all their latent vasanas (tendencies or desires). Major told himself "You are a wretched fellow and how do you think you are highly qualified?". So he decided to again practice bhakti as he felt that alone can result in purification of the mind (chitta shuddhi) of all the latent desires and impurities. But he could not muster any feeling of bhakti toward any deity as that was rooted out of his system through years of association with UG. So he thought he can do so only toward a Guru he has met who encouraged such bhakti and Anandamayi Ma came to his mind as the object of such devotion. Right then, he came across a passage by Ma where she told some other devotee to direct his devotion toward his Guru from his past life. This made Major introspect deeply and he realized that it was none other than Sri Ramana Maharshi who has been his Guru all along, from his past life and guiding him through this life too right from that day he sat next to his father as an eight year old. He especially got convinced of it after knowing about one soldier swami who lived with Ramana Maharshi in the 1920s. He was a World War I veteran who got drawn to Ramana Maharshi and spent his later years in devotion and service to Sri Ramana Maharshi. Major having born in a traditional Brahmin family with nobody considering military service as an option was somehow drawn to joining the army from a young age. This peculiar draw towards army as well as his attraction to Ramana Maharshi both of which started from his childhood convinced Major that Sri Ramana Maharshi has been guiding him from his past life and therefore, as Anandamayi Ma indicated, he decided to direct his bhakti towards Sri Ramana Maharshi.

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So Major took up again a very regimented life of sadhana steeped in bhakti toward Sri Ramana Maharshi that included mantra japa (repetition of sacred syllables), chanting of stotras (hymns) and smarana (constant remembrance) of Sri Ramana. This sadhana for 4 short years resulted in a radical transformation of his inner and outer life. Major found that  he felt like a caterpillar was catapulted into the state of a joyful butterfly. He found the mind that was constantly torturing him collapsed completely, leaving no room for misery or conflict. Now he found that thoughts never trouble him and not a single sad thought ever occurs and all worry has vanished. He felt like there is an empty pot sitting on top of the neck. Every human being has a lurking dissatisfaction which left Major completely and there was now a feeling of constant satisfaction that everything inside and out are perfect as they should be. All traces of fear and insecurity had disappeared. Major first thought this was a passing phase and would go away but after many months, he realized that this has become his permanent state and he is totally free of all movements of the mind that torment men everywhere. He realized that this was a total transformation. Pondering upon it, he concluded that this state of bliss was bestowed upon him by the grace of Ramana Maharshi who has been guiding him from his childhood as a personal gift. So he lives happily in the privacy of his farm house, not seeking any attention of any kind.

It has been thirty years since Major did any socializing of any kind, reading newspapers, watching movies etc. His focus has always been to live with oneself as shown possible by Sri Ramana Maharshi and by the grace of Sri Ramana, he has been able to do that. Now after he found himself in this uninterrupted state of bliss, he asked himself what am I to do as the object of his sadhana has been realized. He then remembered that Nisargadatta Maharaj continued with 3 to 4 hours of bhajan till the end, Anandamayi Ma was constantly engaged similarly in bhajans, and of course Sri Ramana Maharshi was always in silent samadhi all the time. So he felt he also can just continue with his regiment of mantra japa and chanting of stotras, while constantly remembering Sri Ramana with boundless love and gratitude. Thus he continues to keep this regimen everyday till now, not anymore with the object of realizing anything but as an expression of the joy within and continuing to live in solitude.


                                                                                - Suresh Natarajan

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“ I am a White Brahmin, of purest ray serene! ” - UG

I just recall this one-off anecdote. UG and Mahesh Bhatt had just returned to Parekhji’s place after their lunch at the Oberoi...