WHILE B.V. Narasimhaswami sat in Bhagavan's presence and was translating Vivekananda's Life and Teachings into Tamil he wondered if Bhagavan had the power to bestow the experience of Reality by his mere touch just as Sri Ramakrishna had. Before he could express his thought, Echammal came and asked Bhagavan whether occult powers could be obtained by all people.
As a reply to both of them, Bhagavan quoted verse 35 of Ulladu Narpadu (Reality in Forty Verses):
To discern and abide in the ever present Reality is true attainment. All other attainments are like powers enjoyed in a dream. When the sleeper wakes, are they real? Those who stay in the state of Truth, having cast off the unreal will they ever be deluded?
Tr. K. Swaminathan
Bhagavan's main upadesa was that to realize Reality and abide in it was the sum total of all powers and that one should not be distracted by those temporary powers which accrued on the way.
Bhagavan also said that if one was destined, occult powers would be obtained. The Maharshi also would quote verse 15 of Supplement to Reality in Forty Verses:
Not realizing that they themselves are moved by Energy not their own, some fools are busy seeking miraculous powers. Their antics are like the boast of the cripple who said to his friends `If you raise me to my feet, these enemies are nothing before me.'
- K. Swaminathan Bhagavan's disciples also are generally of this view. Yet some of them say, "Bhagavan is an avatar of Skanda, he is a jnani hence he also has all occult powers." For ordinary people siddhis mattered most. This chapter has been devised to show the difference in the view points of Bhagavan's devotees and others.
Another point about these miracles is that not everyone who came to visit Bhagavan experienced them and to conclude therefore that they could not be true would be erroneous. After all, the experiences depended on the prarabdha of the devotees.
It was said that during his stay on the hill Bhagavan was reputed to be capable of speaking the language of animals and of understanding their mind. Apart from that, Bhagavan would speak to his new visitors in the language native to them and often would clear their doubts directly or indirectly even before they articulated them.
Natanananda's brother once thought of Bhagavan, "They say that he has the spark of Easwara, if so why can't he read my thoughts and clarify my doubts regarding the nature of the atma." Normally Bhagavan who never spoke without being asked, took the initiative and explained the nature of the atma to him.
Both Seshadri Swami and Bhagavan had a soft corner for Kulumani Narayana Sastry. He wished to show his prose rendering in Sanskrit of Valmiki's Ramayana to Bhagavan and set out on that mission. Not wishing to go empty-handed he bought a bunch of bananas and as he had to pass by a temple on his way to Bhagavan he offered one banana to Ganapati purely mentally and took it also to Bhagavan and gave the entire bunch to him. Someone at the ashram was about to keep the bunch inside when Bhagavan said to him, "Wait a bit. Let him take out the fruit offered to Ganapati."
Before Sastry could begin talking about his Ramayana Bhagavan said, "Why not take out your Ramayana and read it out?"
For some years, Gopala Pillai, a Police Inspector, helped in collecting donations for the jayanti celebrations; as he was transferred the devotees felt discouraged and they went and complained to Bhagavan: "Last year we were able to cook ten bags of rice, it looks as if we will not be able to have even one bag." Bhagavan heard that and kept quiet. That day, at midnight, someone knocked at the Ashram gate and when it was opened they noticed that two cart loads of food materials were brought for the Ashram. The philanthropist did not reveal his name but simply said that he had vowed to give the donation and left.
This kind of a thing happened many times. On several occasions whenever the store-room was empty, the fact would be mentioned to Bhagavan and miraculously, the deficiency would be rectified.
A number of persons wishing to know their future, would ask Bhagavan about it. But he never would give a reply but there could be no doubt that he knew the shape of things to come.
Some Hindi-speaking people who had settled in Fiji visited Bhagavan and complained to him, "Bhagavan, your biography is available in several languages but not in Hindi." Bhagavan said, "The author of the Hindi biography is now coming with it." At that time there was no inkling of the author, Venkateswara Sarma, coming there. But he did arrive with his translation within minutes of Bhagavan's saying so.
While at Yerravada jail Mahatma Gandhi commenced his fast, many were concerned about his health and his very survival. One of them read this news in the papers and became agitated. Observing him, Bhagavan asked him what the matter was. He wailed, "Gandhi may no longer be amidst us. Who is to guide us?" Bhagavan smiled and remarked, "Is it so?" To the devotee this remark came as an elixir. What happened later is history.
By his benign look Bhagavan rid devotees of their ailments as we saw in the cases of Ramaswamy Iyer and Echammal. Here is another instance.
Griddalur Satyanarayana Rao developed cancer along the inner wall of his alimentary canal which made it difficult for him even to swallow water. No medicine could be administered either. His relatives mentioned that to Bhagavan who went to look him up. The patient sat up and said to Bhagavan, "You may take me to be a sinner
alright but both my mother and brother are true devotees of yours, won't you save me at least for their sake?" He seized Bhagavan's hand and placed it on his heart. Bhagavan made him lie down and kept looking at his heart for about four minutes and left. That night the patient vomitted lumps of flesh and blood as if someone performed surgery inside. The next day he was able to take medicines as well as food.
Bhagavan's words had a great force. Once an intoxicated young man walked into the hall shouting `Aham Brahmasmi.' Bhagavan watched and kept quiet for some time but the shouting was causing disturbance to those meditating. Bhagavan said softly to him `Be quiet.' With that, the young man simply lost all power of speech. Many people were cured of diseases with the vibhuti taken from the Ashram.
One night, when food was got ready for twenty people suddenly another twenty arrived for dinner. Santamma who worked in the kitchen went and appealed to Bhagavan. Strangely, the food was sufficient for all of them.
In 1905, Bhagavan stayed at Pachaiamman Kovil.
The stay was arranged by a devotee, Rangaswami Iyengar. The latter went out to answer a call of nature and just about then a leopard arrived there. He tried to frighten the leopard but it growled. He was terrified and chanting Ramana's name began running for life. Normally, a leopard would not leave such a person but it kept quiet. Bhagavan arrived near that place and asked the devotee to show him
the leopard. But it was no longer to be seen there. Such could be the power of Ramana nama smarana.
Another incident occurred at Pachaiamman Kovil.
A devotee who had arrived from Madras went out to bathe at a tank close by. Bhagavan who was talking to some visitors in the kovil, suddenly got up and went out. By that time a tiger was looking at the new person near the tank, maybe for a meal! At Bhagavan's behest the tiger went back to the forest. The visitor was thus saved.
Bhagavan appeared as a column of light to some.
Both Sivaprakasam Pillai and Ganapati Muni had unusual visions as we have already seen. Here is another such instance.
One Raghavachari was an overseer at Tiruvannamalai from 1910 onwards. He had Bhagavan's darshan off and on but whenever he went, Bhagavan would be amidst a group of people and so Raghavachari was reluctant to speak to Bhagavan who was not alone. Here is what happened once, in his own words:
One day, I went up with an intent to submit three questions or requests to Bhagavan. The questions were: (i) Can you grant me a few minutes for a private personal talk-free from the presence of others? (ii) I should like to have your opinion on the Theosophical society of which I am a member; (iii) Will you please enable me to see your real form if I am eligible to see it?
When I went and prostrated (to Bhagavan) and sat, there was a crowd of thirty persons, but (on their
own) they immediately dispersed. So I was alone with him and my first query was thus answered without my having to state it. That struck me as noteworthy.
Then he asked me of his own accord if the book in my hand was the Gita and if I was a member of the T.S. and remarked even before I attempted to answer his queries, `It is doing good work.' I answered his questions in the affirmative.
My second question also being thus anticipated, I waited with an eager mind for the third answer. After half an hour I said `Just as Arjuna wished to see the form of Sri Krishna and asked for darshan I wish to have a darshan of your real form, if I am eligible.' He was then seated on the pial with a picture of Dakshinamurthy painted on the wall next to him. He silently gazed on as usual and I gazed into his eyes. Then his body and also the picture of Dakshinamurthy disappeared from my view. There was only empty space without even a wall, before my eyes. Then a whitish cloud in the outline of the Maharshi and of Dakshinamurthy, formed before my eyes. Gradually the outline (with silvery lines) of these figures appeared. Then eyes, nose etc., and other details were outlined in lightning-like lines. These gradually broadened till the whole figure of the Swami and Dakshinamurthy became ablaze with very strong and unendurable light. I closed my eyes in consequence. I waited a few minutes and then
saw him and Dakshinamurthy in the usual form. I prostrated and came away. For a month thereafter I did not dare go near him, so great was the impression the above experience made on me. After a month, I went up and saw him in front of Skandasramam. I told him `I had put to you a question a month ago and I had this experience' and narrated the above experience to him. I requested him to explain it. Then, after a pause he said `You wanted to see my form. You saw my disappearance. I am formless. So that experience might be the real truth. The further visions may be according to your own conceptions derived from the study of Bhagavad Gita. But Ganapati Sastry had a similar experience and you may consult him.' I did not in fact consult Sastri.
- Extracted from Narasimha Swami's Self
Readers would have guessed by now that Bhagavan had occult powers just like siddha purushas. Bhagavan himself once said that he moved in different lokas simultaneously and that he lived in different forms in the different lokas.
Bhagavan's act of grace in appearing to Ganapati Muni at Tiruvottiyur has already been described. Here is one more instance of the same type.
Amritanatha, one of the questioners in Ramana Gita, had been to Haridwar once. He and his friend, Sankarananda, were performing tapas at the Turiya ashram. During a conversation Sankarananda remarked that after Vidyaranya there were no more siddhas and jnanis in the country. Amritanatha disagreed with this and cited the instance of Bhagavan as a complete siddha and jnani . But Sankarananda did not accept it. Thereupon Amritanatha said, "You are a devotee of Kartikeya, and we think that Bhagavan is an avatar of Kartikeya. Here is a picture of Bhagavan. You may sit in front of it and perform Kartikeya japa for some time. If you do not experience Bhagavan's grace by then, I am prepared to agree with you."
Taking up the challenge Sankarananda performed Kartikeya japa for half an hour each day. Four days passed. On the fifth day at dusk when Sankarananda was at his japa a great light entered Bhagavan's picture and said to him, "You are not performing the japa in the proper way." "What is the proper way?" Sankarananda asked.
"Here it is," said the picture and placed the image in front of Sankarananda. He then began watching the image with one eye and Ramana's picture with the other. Suddenly a lizard fell on his lap and he was distracted. When he turned to look at the image and Ramana neither of them was there. He ran out and made enquiries of
some labourers who were working outside the cottage. They said that nobody had either entered the cottage or left it all the while. By then Amritanatha arrived. Sankarananda asked him, "Is there any difference between your Swami and the picture?" The reply was "There is grey hair to mark out the forehead and the rest is dark."
Sankarananda immediately set out for Arunachala and after an eventful journey of some months reached Arunachala and met Bhagavan at Skandasramam. Immediately on seeing him Bhagavan asked him in Malayalam, "Aren't you coming from Haridwar?" Sankarananda was stunned. The person he saw at Haridwar was Ramana. But everyone said ? "Ramana never left this place."
Sankarananda authored the Ramanashtakam, stayed at Parrot cave for two months and served Bhagavan. He also wrote Sri Ramanaashtotharasata Namavali and the method of performing Ramana japa and submitted them to Bhagavan along with five slokas. As the climate of Arunachala did not suit him he went back to Uttara Kasi.
The miracles which would take place in the presence of Bhagavan were legion. Here are a few examples.
On a Jayanti day a golden-hued mongoose went up the hill like the rest of the devotees, everyone was watching its movements in amazement. The mongoose first went to Virupaksha cave, saw Palaniswami there and moved about like a long-time friend, inspected the cave and not finding Bhagavan there walked up to Skandasramam. The mongoose passed by the people and went close to Bhagavan. After he caressed it, the mongoose sat on his lap for some time and went inside the ashram and came
out. During meal time the mongoose walked up and down gravely as if inspecting everything. It did not partake of any food but after a while moved out in the southern direction of the hill but not down the hill.
On one occasion when Bhagavan was coming down the hill to go on a giri-pradakshina, suddenly he experienced that the sky was waist-high and that the stars were revolving round him. On another occasion, while on a giri pradakshina at Gautama Ashrama Bhagavan experienced six stars going round the hill one after another. Similarly on another occasion of giri-pradakshina a brilliant light enveloped Bhagavan's party of about fifteen persons and stayed that way for a few minutes and disappeared. This was seen by everyone.
While Bhagavan and his party were resting at the Adi Annamalai temple on one occasion somebody reciting the Sama Veda was heard. But nobody, not even Bhagavan, saw the singer.
Some devotees of Bhagavan said to him: "Bhagavan, you often say that the Heart is on the right side of the chest but we do not experience it." Bhagavan invited them to touch his Heart on the right side of the chest. Each one felt three palpitations and an interval thereafter. They also felt a new energy surging in them.
Ashramites had innumerable experiences of Bhagavan's miracles, even in relatively minor matters. But Bhagavan would be totally unconcerned about them all.
Reality in Forty Verses