Mesmerizing Moments with the Divine Master
Interview with Mrs. Rani Subramanian - Part 5 & 6
<<back to part4
A devout and dedicated devotee for nearly sixty years, Mrs. Rani Subramanian, who
originally hails from Tamil Nadu, came to Bhagavan Baba as early as 1950. Now eighty
five years old and fondly called 'Rani Maa' by Bhagavan, her life is a
treasure-chest of scintillating experiences from yester years. A sincere spiritual
seeker, she currently resides in Puttaparthi and shares her elevating memories with
eager devotees with deep conviction, insight and faith. This is the fifth part of
her wonderful reminiscences, continued from the previous issue.
Mrs. Rani Subramanian
I was once engaged in a conversation with a lady at Prasanthi Nilayam. She said her
reason for coming to Puttaparthi was to be healthy. However, she was very
dissatisfied with what she had received. I said, “You aren’t recognizing what you
are receiving here! Swami is giving you health - spiritual health!” “What do you
mean?” she asked.
I said, “He didn't call this place an ‘ashrama’ - which literally means ‘a place
where there is no “shrama” or effort, He named it 'Prasanthi Nilayam', because it is
an abode of God, where you will receive peace. He has promised peace that surpasses
all understanding; peace that one derives from divine love. Such peace is permanent,
unshaken by circumstances. This is not any temporary peace that makes you happy when
somebody is kind to you and unhappy when they aren’t.”
The same truth is recorded in our ancient scriptures. In the Bhagavad Gita the Lord
said, “He is my true devotee who transcends the pairs of opposites” that is, one who
is unaffected by the duality of good and bad treatment, honor and dishonor. One must
not pay heed to these because they exist in the realm of delusion. Swami says, “You
are all in slumber, I have come to wake you up!”
Once He said to me: “Rani Maa, as far as I am concerned, there is no problem.
Problem is an error in perception; you are seeing something that is unreal. You are
above problems, but you are not realizing this fact because you have not reached
that state of consciousness yet. You are therefore day-dreaming that you are the
body. All your experiences contribute only to your body consciousness. You are
judging every experience from the level of the body. Swami has not descended to help
us with problems related to your body consciousness. Tomorrow a certain illness or
tragedy may befall you - they, however, belong to your body consciousness.”
The Sweetest Victory
It is delusion or what we refer to in Sanskrit as Maya or Moha. What is this
illusion or attachment that Swami alludes to? It is nothing but delusion - ignorance
that happiness and sadness are related to the body. It is this ignorance that Swami
has come to uproot. He is an Avatara purusha (divine incarnation); He is not like
other gurus. Once, Swami told a group of devotees including me, “Don't think that by
coming to Puttaparthi, you are going to be very happy. You will, in fact, be very
disturbed, but if you secure your victory here, you can go to any part of the world
and nothing will ever disturb you."
Puttaparthi is the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Lord Krishna gave the immortal
message of Bhagavad Gita on the battlefield because life is a battle. And when you
are victorious in battle, what do you get? Peace! Similarly, when you transcend the
difficulties here with equanimity gained by the knowledge of who you really are and
what the world really is, you will receive that permanent peace that I have come to
give”. This is why He named it 'Prasanthi Nilayam' - the abode of everlasting peace.
Many years ago, my daughter’s mother-in-law wanted to settle down in Prasanthi
Nilayam. She had become a devotee only after meeting us, and in a subsequent
interview with Swami, she happened to be present. On that occasion, she expressed to
Swami her wish to reside in Prasanthi Nilayam. Swami, then asked, “Why do you want
to stay here? You have two sons, live with them. Who will take care of you here?”
She replied, “Swami, here, I get peace”.
But Swami said, “No, no! There is no peace here. Do you know where peace is? It is
in the inner self. Prasanthi Nilayam will help you struggle righteously to achieve
that peace. Struggle is needed here as well. It is not as if once you come to
Prasanthi Nilayam everything in your life gets sorted out automatically. You have to
work on yourself with your knowledge. Swami gives you that wisdom; but you have to
practice it. It is similar to going to a school or college where the teacher teaches
you but doesn't do the work for you.”
Know that He is the Divine Master. The purpose of His advent is not to give us
paltry things. He will give us whatever we desire. He once told me, “Rani Maa, I
will give you whatever you ask for, but that will not give you peace. If you want
peace, ask for peace itself; leave the rest to Me. Say, ‘God, I want permanent
peace, I don't want anything else.’ That is surrender. True surrender is when you
don't want anything other than peace. You run after so many things - money,
position, power, etc., because you think they will grant you peace. But despite
this, you are perturbed. This is because jnana (knowledge) is missing.”
Prasanthi Nilayam, not ‘Sri Sathya Sai Ashram’
Swami says that is why He calls the ashram at Puttaparthi ‘Prasanthi Nilayam’ and
not ‘Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ashram’. You have to make the effort, the shrama. He can
only help you and guide you to face the ups and downs effectively. All you have to
do is ask Him for that guidance. He, once, warned me saying this will be difficult,
and then added, “Do not be scared. You pray to me: ‘Swami, don't test me too hard, I
may fail! (How does He know my innermost prayers? I did not verbalize them anytime
"Why are you so scared of the struggle? This is wrong. When I give you the
challenge, I also give you the strength and wisdom to face it. You should say
‘Swami, test me as much as you want, but give me victory.’ When you are fighting a
battle, what do you ask for? Do you say I want a gun, a sword and so on? You just
say, I want victory! Therefore, ask for that peace.” - Baba
You have come to Puttaparthi seeking that peace, so ask for that peace. But being
householders, something or the other keeps bothering us now and then, and we are
forced to ask Swami to help us with those difficulties. Sometimes Swami responds
immediately to alleviate them, at other times He does not.
However, always ask for things that conform to dharma or righteousness. Things which
do not confirm to this will not be entertained by Him at all. Even in the case of
desires that are within the bounds of dharma, He chooses whether the desire uplifts
us or not because He is the Guru.
Once in an interview, He told us that whatever good you wish for, will be granted.
But He decides the right time to grant our wishes, because He knows what is good for
each of us, and knows our past, future and present. In the spiritual path, patience
is a key requisite, so we should patiently wait for Swami to grant us our wishes.
I have a direct experience with respect to this. My husband was very reluctant to
stay in Puttaparthi. He said that he could not relate to the place and wanted to
leave the ashram. During one visit, at the very last moment, in the evening, I said
I will not leave Puttaparthi, and if he so wishes, he could go and live with the
children. I kept praying all night that it would be good for him to stay at
Puttaparthi and imbibe His aura. I prayed to Swami saying that if He wanted to keep
him here, He could; I completely surrendered the problem to Him. The next morning to
my utter surprise, my husband said that he has decided to stay in Puttaparthi! He
stayed in the ashram till his last moments.
Leave the Results to Him
In the Bhagavad Gita, it is said that you have only the right to act and not to the
result. The result is in His hands and we don’t control the result. So, the right
thing to do is to leave the result to Him, so that He grants us the fruit of the
action at the right moment.
The message that Swami conveys is this: “When you come to Puttaparthi, you will meet
many people, some good and others bad. You might get a good place to stay for one
day and an uncomfortable location the next day. But all these should not affect you.
You have come to the ashram for your inward journey. Do not look for peace outside.
It is within you, so look within. If you think there is peace freely available in
Puttaparthi, it means you have not understood the subject. This is the jnana, the
knowledge that you should know."
Mind, sometimes, plays tricks on us but it is also helpful in acquiring wisdom.
Therefore, we must train our mind. This is what is mentioned in Karma yoga (the
spiritual path of action). After mastering the mind, one can move to jnana yoga (the
path of wisdom), and then to bhakthi yoga (the path of devotion). Till then our
devotion is not complete. Devotion is complete only when we have wisdom. This is
pointed out in the Bhagavad Gita as well. With jnana (knowledge) you must perform
dhyana (meditation), and with dhyana you must develop phala tyaagam (renouncing the
fruit of the action).
Sometimes we may perform a good action but it could give us an unfavourable result.
However, we should accept the outcome, be it good or bad. We are not engaged in work
to get victory; we are working to transcend victory and defeat. God does not want to
see us become sorrowful and despondent on getting an unpleasant result. On the other
hand, God wants us to take the test, but not suffer.
Awakening Our Conscience
Once, in Whitefield, Swami said, “Rani Maa, I have come to awaken the inner Guru.
Don't depend on the external Guru. Pray to me thus: ‘Swami, please become my inner
Guru. Tell me what I should do from the inside and I will do it.’ Then I will surely
guide from within you.” There should be no ‘me’ and ‘my’. It should become Swami's
completely. As soon as the feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ arise, we enter the realm of
ignorance in that instant.
Swami says, “There are to be no likes and dislikes. The duo of raga-dwesha (anger
and hatred) should be transcended.” Irrespective of whether someone is lovable or
not, we must love everyone. We should understand that one is acting ignorantly
because of their body consciousness, and therefore, take pity on him/her as the
person has not yet understood the atma (spirit) principle. We must have compassion
and pray for such people. We should understand that Swami is the indweller of every
being, and therefore not hurt anyone. Only then can one say that he or she
understands Swami, and not until then.
We should not compare and judge people. By doing so, we are buying sorrow. When we
take that path even Swami will not help us because we are taking the wrong path.
Once, when I said to Him “Swami, I want to be a good devotee”, He said, “It is very
simple, all that you need to do is to obey Me. No books or scriptures can help. Only
the Guru can take you through the spiritual path.” Obedience to the Guru is a very
important trait in a spiritual aspirant. This can take a person very high. It should
not be such that in some matters we obey Swami, and in others we take our own
decisions. Surrender to Swami must be complete. He has promised us liberation if we
practice this kind of surrender. Liberation is nothing but freedom from our body
consciousness and ego. The feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ constitute the ego.
The Bhajan Lesson
Two years after Swami moved to Prasanthi Nilayam, we were still in the Old Mandir
and used to come to Prasanthi Nilayam for bhajans. On one occasion, during the
bhajan session, He asked us to stop singing. I was sitting very close to Him.
Looking at me, Swami asked, “Do you sing?” I replied in the affirmative, and added
that I did not know Carnatic music and can sing only Hindustani. I was of the view
that He liked only Thyagaraja kirtanas (based on Carnatic music) and the like. But
He said, “It doesn't matter, you sing a bhajan.” So I began to sing a bhajan that
came to my mind at that moment. I didn't realize it then, but later, while
ruminating on it, I realized that Swami wanted me to take a great and profound
lesson out of that bhajan. The meaning of that bhajan stressed on the Adwaita
(non-dualistic) principle, which is what Swami wanted to point out to me.
The next day when I went, Swami wanted me to sing the same bhajan again. The third
day was no different. I was getting a bit frustrated of singing the same bhajan
because I was not paying heed to the meaning. So I asked Swami in front of everyone,
“Swami, I know many bhajans, shall I sing another one?” He said, “No need! I want
you to sing this bhajan alone.” We can never understand Him of our own accord. He
has to reveal Himself to us. Trying to understand Him is like counting the grains of
sand on the beach.
After a few days, He called a few ladies upstairs to clean His room. About five of
us went up and while I was busy cleaning, I heard Him sing, “Raama Naama Japanaaree...,”
the same bhajan that He had asked me to sing a few days ago. I was a bit surprised
and started to tell myself “I have had enough of that bhajan. Why is He boring me
with the same bhajan?” I turned and looked at Him; my face was a question mark. He
said, “You are wondering why I am singing the same bhajan, right? I am singing this
again and again because it has the essence of knowledge. If you can assimilate that
knowledge, there is nothing more you would need to do. You would have attained your
spiritual goal.” Till then, I had not realized that I had not paid attention to the
meaning of the bhajan.
Then he says, “Mother, father, children, relatives, etc. are only your own
imagination, kalpana. Whole creation is only imagination; it is a projection of your
mind which doesn't really exist. It is delusion. All relationships exist, but only
relatively real, not in absolute terms. You are only playing a role.... Jhooti
jagath, kalpana saari, aakhir yah jag sapna rey! In the end it is only a dream.”
When we sing a Thyagaraja kirtana, we must get into the mood of Thyagaraja. Only
then can we appreciate it. The meaning is more important than how good the Thaala
(rhythm) is! The meaning of the kirtana goes like this, “Chant Rama’s name always,
oh human! As long as you are breathing, this place is yours (jab lag yah swaas tan
bheetar, tab lag yah jag apna re)! As long as you are breathing you say ‘my money’,
‘my place’, etc. But once breathing stops, nothing is yours!”
Similarly, when we awaken to our true self, the dream ceases to be. Swami says,
“Awaken to your true self, the world which is bothering you, will cease to exist”.
It took me quite sometime to completely understand this song. Now, I repeat this
song wherever I am asked to talk. This is the essence of what Swami taught me 2-3
years after I arrived at Puttaparthi. I came here in 1950. So it has been more than
a half-century. This song I must have sung in 1954 or so. So, it has taken me lot of
sadhana (spiritual effort) to go inward and really understand it completely.
An Easy Solution to Our Problems
Years ago, in an interview He said, “Rani Maa, there is no problem for Me to come
down to your level and understand your problem because I have no problem. But I
don't understand your problems at all, because there really is no problem!”
I didn't understand all this then. So He granted the real meaning to me through this
song. What was my duty? To contemplate on it. He told me: “Contemplate, you have got
the essence”. I wasn’t thinking deeply on the meaning and kept thinking about the
problem. So He wrote in a letter: “Rani Maa, you have got a problem.”
Problem, according to me and not Him. Let us remember, Swami has no problem! Crisis
is our making and we have to solve it. Bhagavad Gita says, “You are the cause of the
problem and you must find a way out of it, no one else will, not even the Guru.
So He said, “You are constantly thinking of the problem, and hence I can't help you.
If you cease to think of the problem then I can help you. When you forget your
problem, keep your mind fixed on Me, and constantly chant My name, you contact me!
Divine name is like an arrow which will go from you to Swami. How do you contact
Swami? By repeating His name.”
Sing Only for Him
I used to go to Delhi often and stay with my elder sister, Kamala Sarathi, during
the holidays. She lived in the vicinity of the Ramakrishna Math. After the first
visit, Swami told us to be in satsang (good company) and we asked Him as to how
could we do that. He told us to participate in Gita classes and similar activities.
We asked Swami if we could continue to go to Ramakrishna Math. At that time, we
thought Swami was a great person, but did not know that He is God Himself.
So, we were not sure if He would approve. But Swami said, “Yes, it is a very good
place, go to Ramakrishna Mission! Go and participate in all their study circles and
talks.” They had regular Gita and Upanishad classes and we attended them sincerely.
During some occasions like the Holy Mother's birthday or Sri Ramakrishna's birthday,
they wanted a few good bhajan singers to sing on the stage in the presence of large
audiences. So, my sister said, 'Rani Maa knows bhajans and if you would like her to
sing, I will ask her”.
I happened to be there at the time. I sang a few bhajans that of Meera, Surdas, etc.
on one of these occasions. Subsequently, they started inviting me regularly to the
celebrations for singing, and since these were public functions, people came to know
of my talent. So, they used to call me for various events, birthdays, etc. and
request me to sing. I used to take my harmonium and sing at these events. I was
doing this quite innocently. During one of the visits to Puttaparthi when Kamala
Sarathi came alone, in an interview, Swami asked her: “Ask Rani Maa whether she
wants to realize herself or wants name and fame? If she wants to realize her divine
self, she must stop singing in public, and only sing for God in her puja room. I
find her going everywhere.”
Now, Swami is not in Delhi, how does He know? He is proving His omnipresence to us,
He knows everything we do! We didn't know He is omnipresent. I thought He is
omnipresent only when we pray! My understanding of His omnipresence was limited. I
didn't know He was my inner self and was aware of every thought, word and deed
during the whole day. He knows what I am up to. I can't do anything without Him
When you get that awareness, you will be very vigilant and careful. If you know
Swami is aware of everything that you do, will you do many things you do in His
physical absence? No, you will not. You will talk very politely even to individuals
with whom you have disagreements. You will think, “Swami is watching, let me be
polite”. It is this awareness He wanted us to develop. It has to be developed. It
doesn't come easily. It is the torturous passage of the grain through the grinder.
It is like climbing the Himalayas. So Swami said, “Ask her what she wants, if she
wants name and fame, she can go and sing anywhere she likes. But if she wants to
realize her true self she must stop going out, and sing only in the shrine of her
home for God”. After I got this message I stopped going anywhere.
One day, one Ms. Malini called me up and said that she wanted me to sing. I said,
“Sorry, I don't have my Guru's permission.” But she said, “You are not singing for
public, only for nuns.” I said I didn’t know if I could or not and that I have to
pray to Swami and think about it. She insisted that I should. I thought about it and
prayed. Something told me that ‘since it was for nuns, I could, but no more after
this. I should make it clear’.
He told me once: “I don't guide everyone, I do it only for those who ask for it. In
your case, you ask me for guidance in everything, small to big (I even ask Him very
mundane things related to this maya existence, shall I cook this or that, etc.), so
I will interfere in everything and guide you.” I was momentarily hurt as to why He
stopped me from singing. After all, I was singing only bhajans, not even classical
numbers. I stopped that long ago. I remembered Thyagaraja, when he was invited to
the court to sing, he said he sang only for the Lord. I didn't understand Swami
then. I thought it was not as if I was giving radio programs. But then when I
thought deeper I realized that I must live only for God. One has to renounce things
that belong to the realm of ‘I’ and ‘mine’.
I went there because the nuns had assembled and Swami had asked me to keep attending
satsang at the Ramakrishna math. Ramakrishna and Sharada maths have given us so
much, and so, I owed it to them. Therefore, with that attitude, not knowing whether
it was obedience or not, I went. I felt the decision was consistent with dharma. It
was not for publicity. It was not for name or fame. After this event, I completely
stopped. I don't sing till date when I go out. Swami is constantly keeping track
because we are asking Him for guidance.
Renouncing ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ and Life is so Easy
We were in the Old Mandir. When the quarters got ready, Swami was allotting quarters
to all permanent residents who were helping in His mission. But we were only
occasional visitors. At this time He was personally allotting rooms! We had to
inform Him when we arrived and He would allot accommodation based on the
availability. Very few quarters were available and especially during functions He
used to put us together with some family or the other.
About eight or ten of us used to live in a small room. We had to accommodate each
other and share everything. Prior to these rooms being available, it was even more
difficult. He passed us through various stages of learning to adjust. Can you limit
your needs to the situation? This is the demand for spiritual evolution. We never
grumbled because He gave us the strength, acceptance and happiness. We were not at
all sad inside. Now I ask myself “What is it that allowed us to undergo all that
On one occasion, we had to leave Puttaparthi in a couple of days; those days we had
to inform Swami when were leaving. This was during Dasara and Swami used to stop all
interviews a month before Dasara as He used to get involved in the organisation of
the festival Himself. Devotees used to come forward to help, but it was all under
His direct supervision. So He couldn't give interviews at that time.
I wanted to leave before Dasara, and so I wrote a letter to Him saying, “Swami, I
would like to leave, Salutations.” I sent it through Prof. Kasturi. Upon receiving
the letter, Swami told him: “Tell Rani Maa I must see her before she leaves. I can't
call her to the interview room because others will think I gave her an interview. So
ask her to come to the Hospital, I am going there on a visit.”
I had to go to the General Hospital which was very small at that time. “She can come
with her younger sister.” So we went to the Hospital quietly and waited on the
appointed day. He came directly to us and took us into the surgical room. I don't
remember the entire conversation we had, but I do remember this much. I asked Him
something that had been bothering me.
Never think “I cannot accomplish this task”. When you think so, you come crashing
down to the body level. The 'I ' is ego. There is no 'I'. There is only He. Swami is
doing it from within us. It is my experience that whenever I have thought that I
need to solve a problem, it never worked. But when I leave the problem to Him
saying, “You are the doer and I am only an instrument”, then everything starts
working fine. I have not yet reached that highest state of realization.
“Swami, you have allotted quarters to everybody, but I have not received one. It is
difficult to stay with somebody every time I come here. Can you please allot a room
to me?” He said, “No, I am not going to give you any accommodation here! No room for
you." I thought perhaps I have done some mistake and therefore don't deserve a room.
Then He said, “You know what you are practicing? It is the feeling of ‘Thou and
Thine’. If I give you a room you will start thinking ‘My room’. I want you to go up,
not come down. So I put you in a number of rooms. Once in a small room when four of
you were staying, you had to get water from the outside; while on another occasion,
at Chincholi Maharani's place, you were very comfortable. You never grumbled whether
it was a big room or small one; you stayed happily and told yourself that everything
Swami has put the thought in my mind that every place is God's and therefore I did
not grumble. But there was one thing that He did promise me. “Whenever you come
here, I will see to it that your stay here is not hindered by any external problem”.
Once He put us in a garage. There was Swami's car behind which there was Shirdi
Baba's Ratham (chariot) which left only the four corners of the garage empty. We
used to cook in one corner and sleep in the other.
We didn't feel bad about it. We managed everything without feeling sorry for
ourselves. I have to thank Swami for this. He has given us that power of acceptance
and the joy therein. He has demonstrated to us that this acceptance has to come from
within and that He has been instrumental in making this happen. He gave us the power
of acceptance because we had gone there for His sake and He wanted to give us peace.
He did not give us external peace.
We were accommodative with every hardship we encountered, but He gave us internal
peace in abundance. Now, when I think of those days and remember how happy I was
even after accommodating all those hardships, I realize that He did all this for me.
If you live for Him, He will take care of everything - your thought, word and deed.
If you are finding it difficult, tell Him, ‘Swami, I am finding it very difficult.’
He will surely help you.
Speaking the Language of Silence
If someone rebukes you for no reason you should not retaliate. You should suffer the
hurt internally and keep calm externally. “Silence is the language of the spiritual
seeker”. We are all seekers. Devotee means 'Bhakta'. That is why Swami does not
address us as Bhaktas (devotees). He told us once that He addresses us as “Atma
Swaroopulaara” (embodiment of divine Atma) because, not one in this congregation can
be called a devotee.
However, each one here is an Atma Swaroopa (embodiment of the spirit) although they
may not know that truth. They cannot be called devotees because they have not
imbibed the qualities of a devotee as listed in chapter XII of the Bhagavad Gita
which says: “One who has transcended the pairs of opposites, and has recognized the
true nature of the world (that it is temporary)”.
Swami, therefore says, “Don't talk”. We shouldn't even talk about others. Years ago,
He had said that you have come here only to focus on yourself. You should not be
worried about how someone else is behaving. They are all my children and each one
has started their own pilgrimage. Some are spiritually advanced; others are still
going through the process of development. They are rude because they are stressed,
poor things! They are all struggling to maintain their equanimity.
Therefore, in a moment of anger, they might behave rudely; sometimes some volunteers
might behave unkindly. They do so because if they speak calmly and lovingly, no one
listens to them. Thus, it is necessary for them to behave in such a manner to
maintain the discipline of the place. However, one should not worry about why
someone has been rude, it is not one's business to do so.
Loving God, but Living for Him or the World - Decide
It should be clear that it is all delusion. Asatoma Sadgamaya, what does this mean?
It means, “Lead us from the unreal to the real.” We chant this mantra everyday, but
do we understand its meaning? Mere chanting is of no use. We should apply it in our
daily life. Applying the teachings of these chants in our daily life is very
difficult. It can only be achieved by a few people. Those who are sincere and want
nothing but God are the only people who have practiced all these teachings in their
It is very difficult to imbibe the teachings of the Guru but Swami once told us, if
you feel it is very difficult, it means that you are progressing fast. The Guru
subjects us to so many trials so that we come near our goal. It is like nearing the
sea. As you approach the sea, you hear the roar of its waves getting louder.
Therefore, if you want God, submit yourself to the tests that He puts you to
happily. Otherwise, if you want to enjoy the world, be honest and say so to Swami.
Be a good, righteous spiritual aspirant and pursue the desire. He will make you very
comfortable in whatever you want. He will give you whatever you ask of Him. In the
Bhagavad Gita, it is said that a man has four things to attain, 'Dharma', 'Artha', '
Kama' and 'Moksha' (right conduct, wealth, desire and liberation). Be honest and
tell Him: “I can't take the tests that you are putting me to. I love You. I have
full faith in You, but I want the world. I can't live for You.” Be true to your own
self first. He once said, “If you don’t get any inspiration by coming to
Puttaparthi, don't come here. Bhagavan is not limited to Puttaparthi. He is the Lord
of the Universe. Wherever you get inspiration, go there.”
<<back to part4
Part 6 below
Mesmerizing Moments with the
Interview with Mrs.
Rani Subramanian - Part 6
A devout and dedicated devotee for nearly
sixty years, Mrs. Rani Subramanian, who originally hails from Tamil Nadu,
came to Bhagavan Baba as early as 1950. Now eighty five years old and fondly
called 'Rani Maa' by Bhagavan, her life is a treasure-chest of scintillating
experiences from yester years. A sincere spiritual seeker, she currently
resides in Puttaparthi and shares her elevating memories with eager devotees
with deep conviction, insight and faith. This is the fifth part of her
wonderful reminiscences, continued from the previous issue.
Learning Pranava from the Primordial One Himself
A few years after Swami started residing in Prasanthi Nilayam
(moving from the Old Mandir that was located in the Puttaparthi village), He
introduced the practice of chanting “Om” at the ashram. He announced that all the
devotees should assemble in the Bhajan Hall and they would be taught the correct
method of chanting. Thus, began these “Omkara sessions”, every morning, at
3.30 a.m., the brahma mahurtha (divinely auspicious) hours. (Apparently
later, Swami changed the time of these sessions).
A few days after the practice began, He came to our room. My younger
sister had been allotted a cottage, but Swami refused to allot one to me! In any
case, He entered the room and asked both of us to sit on the floor. He squatted on
the floor as well, facing the two of us. Then, He asked,
“Do you know the purpose of chanting omkara?
I shall tell you the meaning of omkara and also teach you the proper way to
chant it. It must be done correctly!”
He went on to explain the power of the omkara and said that
it purifies the antahkarana – manas, buddhi, chitta and
ahamkara (mind, intellect, awareness and ego). He further said that it purifies
all the koshas or sheaths that the jeevaatma (individual) is
encased in (annamaya, pranamaya, manomaya, vijnanamaya and aanandamaya
– that is, food, life-force, mind, wisdom and bliss).
“Through such purification”, He said, “Omkara
takes one closer to one’s own divinity”.
And then He would chant it for us and that we used to repeat after
Him in precisely the same way. There were no chairs those days for Swami! He just
sat on the bare floor and chanted. We followed after Him and made an earnest attempt
to learn. After a few days, He visited us again and said,
“I have come to see how well you have learned! Let me
see - chant omkara!” He listened to our chanting and said it was
satisfactory. And then instructed us to chant it everyday.
A few days later, when we happened to be in the presence of Swami,
we asked Him a question: “Swami, we don’t have a mantra. We hear that
chanting a mantra is very important in the spiritual path. Will you give us
upadesha and initiate us to a mantra?”
He said, “No! I don’t give mantras.”
In hindsight, Swami made it clear at the time that He is pure
advaita (non-dualistic) and that is what Omkara represents, although
we didn’t comprehend the true purport of His statements. Omkara verily
means the Parabrahma, the One beyond name and form, as explained in the
Bhagavad Gita. At that time, neither had we read this sacred scripture, nor did we
have any concept of what it stood for. Swami knew we were not yet ready for an
in-depth explanation. Therefore, He merely told us to chant omkara and said
it was good for us.
At that time, we asked him with dismay: “Swami, how will we get our
mantra then?” He told us to pray to God for a mantra and assured
us that we shall receive it. “But you should
persevere,” He said, “It will come to you at the right time. Until then, keep
But we persisted with our requests. “Until we get the mantra
what should we chant?” He said, “Each of you would
have an ishtadevata - a specific form that you like. I will not prescribe
to you what form to choose, but you select one. If you like Rama, then chant ‘Om Sri
Rama’; if you like Krishna, chant ‘Om Sri Krishna’. Remember that you have two Gurus
– one is your ishtadevata (God) and the other is the Guru who gives
Upadesha (spiritual instruction).” Then, He continued
in a seemingly lighter vein, “If you like My
name, you may chant that as well.”
Next, He asked me which form did I like. I confessed that I liked
Krishna as I relate more easily to Krishna than to Rama; the way He moved among His
people, His love, and so on appealed to me. Rama was too austere, too strict about
everything! Swami said that it was alright since the choice was up to me and it made
no difference. This instruction was given by Swami to all four of us, my sisters and
me. Several months after this incident, each one of us received a mantra in
our dreams according to our prarabda (merit) or liking.
“Your question indicates that you have not understood the fact
that Rama and Krishna are the same. Why do you see a difference? All
forms are one. For some reason, you have received the Rama mantra.
Accept it with reverence. If you continue to perceive a difference in
forms, the efficacy of the mantra will diminish. Let Rama be
your mantra, Krishna be your ishtadevata, but chant it
without being conscious of a difference. Then, you will surely reach
that state of consciousness. You are fortunate to have received such a
good mantra.” - Baba
I did not receive the mantropadesha in Puttaparthi; I got
it instead in Nagpur, the place where I lived at that time. Upon receiving the
mantra, I arrived at Puttaparthi and Swami came to our room very shortly after
that. I told Him that I received the mantra.
He said, “That is very good. Tell me, what mantra did you receive?”
When I revealed to Him, He warned me that one is not supposed to tell this to all
and sundry. He, however, said that He is my Guru and so it was alright. He reminded
me that when I visited Him the very first time, He had asked me to perform Paada
pooja (worshipping His feet), and explained to me that this was the reason why
He had asked me to perform the pooja then. We had not even realised that He
was our Guru!
Still, there was something that bothered me. I blurted out: “Swami,
I received Rama mantra, however, my ishtadevata (chosen deity) is
Krishna! Do you think this is appropriate?” He said,
“Your question indicates that you have not understood the fact that Rama and Krishna
are the same. Why do you see a difference? All forms are one. For some reason, you
have received the Rama mantra. Accept it with reverence. If you continue to
perceive a difference in forms, the efficacy of the mantra will diminish.
Let Rama be your mantra, Krishna be your ishtadevata, but chant it
without being conscious of a difference. Then, you will surely reach that state of
consciousness. You are fortunate to have received such a good mantra.”
I have been chanting the mantra I received since that day.
Divine Invitation to Kodai Kanal
During those days, Swami would ask us to visit Him mostly during the
summer; He would say that since the crowd would be small, the place would be quieter
and He would be able to spend a lot of time with us. So, one summer after the above
incident, I arrived at Puttaparthi with my younger sister who is a brahmacharini
(celibate), my 9 year old daughter and my 4 year old niece. When we arrived,
Swami was at Puttaparthi. However, after a few days, unexpectedly He left
Puttaparthi by car, without informing us.
We went to uncle Kasturi and asked him about Swami’s destination and
expected return date. He told us that Swami had gone to Kodai Kanal. Disappointed,
we asked uncle Kasturi, “What is happening? We have come all the way to Puttaparthi
with the sole purpose of spending time with Swami. But He has left us high and dry,
not permitting us to leave or letting us know when He would return. What shall we
do?” Uncle Kasturi asked us to write a letter to Him. “Tell Him that you cannot
leave Puttaparthi without His permission. He will give the date when you should
return - that is the etiquette you must follow,” he said.
Thus, we wrote a letter to Swami at the address provided by uncle
Kasturi. The content of the letter was: “Swami, we came here for Your sake. But you
have left us here stranded. What are we supposed to do? Without Your presence here,
there is no purpose in our staying at Puttaparthi. Shall we go back? What would you
like us to do?” Then, we received a telegram from Swami. It simply read: “Proceed to
Kodai Kanal and stay with me.”
We were happy! We went to Chennai and contacted a lady at Kodai
Kanal who was a dear friend of ours for accommodation. She was a devotee of Sri
Ramakrishna and owned two bungalows there. So, Kamala Sarathi’s (my sister) daughter
and two more friends joined us. We were now a team of five adults and children and
we had managed to organise a bungalow through my friend for a couple of months. The
only problem was that this place was very far from Swami’s residence. But then it
was the only bungalow available at that time.
On the very first day of our arrival in Kodai Kanal, the five of us,
with two children, took the long walk up the hill to Swami’s living quarters, which
was the beautiful bungalow of Mr. Venkatamuni. As we neared Susheelamma’s (Mrs.
Venkatamuni) house, to our utter dismay, we saw Swami driving away in a car! He had
two or three people with Him; Mr. Raja Reddy was driving and Swami sat next to him,
while a couple of gentlemen were in the back seat of the car.
Swami saw us coming, stopped the car and called out:
“Rani amma, come here. Don’t get worried. I am not
leaving Kodai Kanal and going away somewhere else. Stay here. I will return after a
couple of days. A very dear devotee of mine is seriously ill. He wants My
darshan”. So, He asked to stay in Kodai Kanal until He returned and go
to Susheelamma’s house for lunch everyday. So, after He returned, we used to have
breakfast and dinner outside but spend almost the entire day with Swami at
Susheelamma’s place. Lunch and tea were provided to us.
Lessons on Moksha
One of these days, He called us into the room and said,
“There are three stages on the spiritual path. You
have crossed two stages. The third one is very difficult to cross. The first two
stages are like walking; they are easy. The third stage however calls for a leap –
very few can do that and that’s where people hesitate.”
Now, after reading Bhagavad Gita, I have understood that the
third stage Swami meant was moksha (liberation). Moksha is very
difficult to achieve, one must be completely rid of ego, exist at all times in
divine awareness and no trace of worldly desires must cloud the mind such as
artha (wish for wealth) and kama (or desires). This is the last stage
which is the state of liberation from the mind. Mind is the one that makes you think
you are the body. It tells you that you are someone’s son, the other person’s
brother and so on.
"You are all scared to make the last leap and balk; don’t do
that. Stagnant water begins to emit foul odour. You must flow like the
river, which is pure. Face the trials and tribulations because they are
tests that must be passed.... Don’t be scared, I am with you. Take one
step at a time. Give up more and more – if someone hurts you, keep your
composure. Do not react. If someone is pompous, keep calm and composed.
You react because of your limited ego. Take the leap and I will help
you. Do not stop!”
Swami continued, “The last
stage is very difficult to reach. But you must reach it. The tests that will come
your way will be difficult. You must go inward and seek the answer. Swami will tell
you how to handle any situation. Eschew your ego.”
This entire upadesh (instruction) was about how we must
root out feelings of ‘I’ and ‘mine’ completely. That is why He didn’t give me living
quarters at Puttaparthi; He said, "You are working for ‘thou’ and ‘thine’. Why
should I give you a room? It will bring you down to the level of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ if I
do. You are all scared to make the last leap and balk; don’t do that. Stagnant water
begins to emit foul odour. You must flow like the river, which is pure. Face the
trials and tribulations because they are tests that must be passed – Baba is putting
you through an examination and depending on your performance, you’ll pass or fail.
Don’t be scared, I am with you. Take one step at a time. Give up more and more – if
someone hurts you, keep your composure. Do not react. If someone is pompous, keep
calm and composed. You react because of your limited ego. Take the leap and I will
help you. Do not stop!”
Husband’s Career – Taken Care by the Lord
Before this visit, during an earlier conversation with Swami about
my husband, I had told him, “Swami, my husband is passing through a bad phase. He is
very depressed because he has been overlooked for a promotion he deserved.” My
husband should have been promoted to the post of the director of health services,
but the chief minister did not want the promotion to happen for political reasons.
The chief minister installed his nephew in the position in spite of him being junior
to my husband professionally.
Now, my husband had to report to him which drove him very close to
the decision of even resigning the post. All this transpired when I was in Delhi to
help my sister with her delivery. He was alone, was very agitated, and had a strong
urge to go to Puttaparthi and see Swami. He thought nobody could give him solace and
guide him, except Swami.
But he did not inform me that he was going to Puttaparthi. He
quietly arrived at the ashram from Indore and went to uncle Kasturi. He
introduced himself as my husband and requested him for an opportunity to see Baba.
Mr. Kasturi said, “Baba is not here! You cannot see Him; you will have to go back”.
My husband was very disappointed and decided to return to Indore.
In a little while, Baba arrived in the car! He went straight to his
room, sent for Mr. Kasturi and said “Rani Maa’s
husband, Subramanya, is here, is he not? Send him upstairs immediately!” My
husband went to Swami and poured his heart out. He also told Swami that he had kept
this matter as well as his visit to Puttaparthi a secret from me. Swami told
him, “Don’t worry about Rani Maa! She is mine. I will
take care of her.” My husband said he would like to resign after this
experience at work. Swami said, “No. You cannot do
that. Stay back and I will help you. It will take time, but leave everything to me.”
After that my husband spent some time with uncle Kasturi and returned very consoled.
So, this had happened sometime back, and now in Kodai Kanal Swami
called me alone into the room one day and spoke about this issue. He said,
“I have written a letter to Subramanyam.”
He had dictated it to Mr. Raja Reddy. It was written in English in nice
handwriting. He handed me the letter and asked me to read it. It was about how one
should constantly observe dharma (righteousness) and leave the rest to
Swami. It was 3-4 pages long with a lot of spiritual advice. Oftentimes, people
engage in dharma partly and indulge partly in adharma
In the letter, Swami said,
“Everything will happen at the right time. You must adhere to dharma and
leave everything else to Me.” After I read the letter, He asked me, “Rani Maa, is the letter alright?” I said, “Swami,
why this question? Who am I to comment on a letter written by You?” He said,
“No, you must know what I have said to your husband,
and you must feel happy that I have provided the right advice.” I
said, “Swami, since you have written it, it must be so. Who am I to remark anything
Swami then mailed that letter. After a few years, my husband
appealed to the health secretary of the government that injustice had been done to
him. The IAS officer, Mr. Varadan, who was the secretary to the Madhya Pradesh state
government, was a dear friend of ours. He took up the case and fought for the cause
of justice with the government. Mr. Varadan’s initiative prompted the chief minister
and the health minister to create the post of an additional director of health
services, unheard of in the history of state, to correct the wrong that had been
done and promote my husband to this post. Notice Baba’s miracle!
A few months after this incident, a state level meeting for health
services was organised at Indore to be chaired by the Director, who was the chief
minister’s nephew. All the doctors and the directors representing various districts
of Madhya Pradesh were to attend. When the meeting began, after having spoken a few
sentences, the Director collapsed on the stage. My husband, who sat next to him,
caught him as he fell. He was rushed to the hospital but did not survive.
Subsequently, my husband was designated as the Director and the temporary post of
the Additional Director was abolished. This illustrates what Swami said,
“Do dharma and the results will come at the
right time. Leave that to Me.”
(To be continued…)