Encounter with an angel

(in Indian Express - Bharat - 1990)


That Fate makes rules new and afresh every day is one of my cherished beliefs. Though I lived most of my life in Madras it wasn't until recently that I heard of the shrine at Tiruvannamalai previously sanctified by the great saint Ramana Maharshi. It was only by chance recently that a friend told me the story of Tiruvannamalai - or the Hill of the Holy Beacon - also knwon as Arunachala and that another renowned Yogi by name Ramsuratkumar now resides here.

My mother and I were both intrigued to hear of the new Yogi, Ramsuratkumar, who now lives near the old temple, and we set off early morning. The Yogi, we found, was a most distinguished person with a long white beard and gentle, kind, but piercing eyes, a noble, lofty forehead crowned with a saffron turban. Not to mince words, it was clear at once that his clothes were filthy, and we were told that he neither washes them nor does he ever wash himself and in fact hasn't taken a bath in may years. It reminded me of stories I had read of the British in India during the 18th century, who believed that bathing the whole body was most unhealthy and would lead to the flux and terminal fevers.

We found that Ramsuratkumar, though dirty and unwashed, had no need of drenching himself with imported perfumes : from his holy body there emanated a perfume, a fragance, of a positively ethereal qaulity. It was as though, with our eyes closed, we were wandering through a garden of roses. We offered him fruit, and for a while he looked at us seemingly withdrawn, his soul wrapped in profound meditation.

You can imagine, then, how startled and astonished we all were when the Swami suddenly got up and lit a cigarette !! A smoking Swami was novelty we had not previously heard of, let alone encountered. But in other matters too, Ramsuratkumar hardly fits into the normal pattern of the conventional Yogi. No ochre robes, no fawning disciples, nothing but the emanation of a deep sense of the utmost simplicity.

Puffing his Charminar smoke over our heads, he asked : "Now what do you want from this beggar ?" We told him how friends had described him as a great Yogi and that we had come for his darshan. At this he laughed even more, laughing in a childlike manner that at once touched our hearts. Dirty, eccentric he might be, we thought, but here in this man was something special, something unique : "These friends of yours", he told us, "have misled you. My own Guru Ramdas told me to say Ram's name repeatedly, but this beggar that I am thinks only his cigarettes !!".

"Swamin, I asked seriously, can you tell us if there is anything beyond our material experience ? Is it possible for people like us to experience true enlightenment ? Or is the search for truth an enlightenment merely and illusion ?"

The Swami laughed again. He lit another cigarette, and then suddenly came the essence of the wisdom we had heard of this man. "God alone exists," he told me, "but man does not. Gold alone exists and is all-pervading.".

A simple answer enough, I thought, but scarcely one to give me anything more than bewilderment. Was there, though, something of Dakshinamurti about this man, the ability to teach without speaking, or at least without speaking clearly ? Again he startled us, this time not by smoking cigarettes but by singing, and singing in a sweet, melodious angel voice, like an angel in a distant heavenly temple.

"Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram", he sang, and it was as though for the moment we had left our bodies, we had left the earthly world and were transported beyond the mysteries, the sorrows, the foolishness of human life and condition.

The Swamiji, we realized, was speaking again : "Do all the work in the world, but keep your mind always on the Almighty, the Creator of all things, and you can never go wrong. God is all-pervading", he keeps repeating, "God is all pervading and nothing besides exists."

It seemed to us then that here was a man who had freed himself from all the problems of the world and of human life.

Now people have started coming from great distances to have darshan and receive the blessings and wisdom of the new teacher of Tiruvannamalai. Around him there is an atmosphere of fragance, of tenderness and beauty and an inexpressive feeling of deep and profound Godlike love. He has found innet bliss and the radiation of that bliss to those arounc him is palpable, it seems almost as though you could touch it. His words may easily be forgotten, but never his presence and the deep, impregnable power of his personality.

Before we left his presence, suddenly he looked directly at me, and at once I felt my heart released from the burden of all earthly cares and trouble. I knew then, for the first time in my life, that I would never again feel the sour bitterness of anger of envy, or the unrequited melancholy that so often hardens and sours the unhappy human soul.

We bowed humbly before this angelic man before leaving on our long return trip to Madras. Once again he told us : "Remember : God is all pervading. My Father's blessings be always with you."

In "Indian Express" - 1990