Meeting between Narayana Guru and Ramana Maharshi
India is sometimes referred to as the land of religions and saints. No other sub-continent has contributed to the world spiritually as much as India has. Since time unknown, India has been producing saints and prophets who have led mankind from illusion to truth, from darkness to light and from death to life. Especially, the 19th and 20th century witnessed many such self realised souls arise from India. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda in Bengal, Sai Baba in Maharashtra, Ramana Maharshi in Tamil Nadu, Sree Narayana Guru and Sri Chattambi Swamikal in Kerala, etc. were some of these great souls. There may have been many other such souls who were equally great although not very famous. At times, there have been some unusual meetings between these saints.
One such interesting meeting was the one between Sree Narayana Guru and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai in 1916. It’s not often that great self realised souls of their magnitude come together. So, this event deserves to be well treasured atleast in books.
Although most biographers mention this event in their books, a detailed account is rare. Swami Mangalananda had written an authentic report on this meeting in the Sivagiri magazine in 1948 under the name S.M. As it was written according to the details provided by Ramana Maharshi himself when Swami Mangalananda personally visited him, it may well be called the most authentic on this subject. The ‘Mountain Path’ magazine from Ramanashram also gave a description of Sree Narayana Guru’s visit in its July 1984 issue. Swami Satchidananda of Sivagiri Mutt had also written about it in detail in the Sivagiri magazine, the May 1985 issue of Vivekodayam and his book ‘Gurudeva charithrakathakaliile kaanappurangal’. The following account has been prepared based on these articles.
It was in 1916, Swami Govindananda, a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru had established an ashram named ‘Sree Narayana Seva Ashram’ at Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. Sree Narayana Guru arrived there for the inaugration of the ashram with his disciples Swami Achyutananda, Swami Sugunananda, Swami Vidyananda, etc. At the end of the ceremony, Kunnakudi Madathipathi Swami Advaitananda, Ganapati Swami, Koviloor Madathipathi, Pazhani Swami of Ramanashram, etc. who were present there invited Gurudevan to their respective ashrams. Among them, Pazhani Swami was a Keralite and had visited Sivagiri ashram a number of times. He requested Gurudevan to visit Ramanashram at Tiruvannamalai during his return journey to Kerala. As Gurudevan had to return to Kerala soon, the visit to Kunnakudi and Koviloor was postponed (He later visited these places in 1926). Gurudevan informed Pazhani Swami that during his return journey, he would be visiting Tiruvannamalai before proceeding to Kerala. After the inaugration of the ashram, Gurudevan traveled to Chennai (then Madras) with his disciples including Swami Govindananda. After a week long program in Madras, they turned towards Kerala via Tiruvannamalai.
Ramana Maharshi had arrived at Tiruvannamalai at the age of 17 and had never left that place until his Samadhi. The Tiruvannamalai is actually a mountain and its adjacent areas too are known by this name. To complete a revolution of this mount, we will have to walk about 8 kms. Sree Narayana Guru and his disciples visited the Tiruvannamalai temple and then arrived at the foot of the mountain by 10 o’ clock in the morning. During this period, Ramana Maharshi used to stay at the Skanda Ashram on this mount. After resting for sometime at the base of the mountain, Gurudevan said to his disciples, “Seems like Maharshi has never come down this mountain after arriving here. Lets go up and meet him.” They started climbing the mountain. Gurudevan shared a lot of jokes with his disciples during this journey. At one juncture, he stopped suddenly and turned around towards his disciples. In his natural humour sense he said, “We had to climb all these mountains because of an oldie”. This sudden joke from Gurudevan immersed his disciples in joy.
Meanwhile, learning that Gurudevan and his disciples have arrived below the mountain, Pazhani Swami informed it to Maharshi. Hearing this, Maharshi got ready to come down to receive them. By then, Gurudevan and his disciples had reached there. Both the sages faced each other for a moment as if their eyes were speaking to each other. Then, Gurudevan walked off and rested under the shade of a ‘chamba’ tree while his disciples stayed beside the Maharshi. One of them, Swami Achyutananda recited some of the poetic works of Sree Narayana Guru like Advaitadeepika, Municharyapanchakam, Brahmavidyapanchakam, etc. for the Maharshi. Maharshi listened to them with attention. After some time, the disciples came back to Gurudevan. Gurudevan asked them, “Did you all see him?”. They replied gladly, “Yes, we saw.”. Gurudevan said, “Everyone saw, only I didn’t, right?”. When the disciples understood what Gurudevan indirectly meant by ‘seeing’, they felt a bit ashamed. What Gurudevan meant was seeing the magnitude or greatness of Maharshi’s spiritual attainment which can never be perceived or measured. The disciples then visited the nearby areas accompanied by the ashram inmates. Swami Vidyananda stayed with Gurudevan serving him and noting down his golden words. Some of the important verses of his work Darsanamala were composed by Gurudevan during this time.
When it was noon, an atmosphere of a feast prevailed at the ashram. In the traditional South Indian way, leaves of banana trees were placed as plates besides the cave where Ramana Maharshi rests. Gurudevan was still busy narrating something which were carefully being noted down by Swami Vidyananda. According to Maharshi’s directions one his disciples went to invite Gurudevan for food. However, Gurudevan said that he will come later. When Maharshi saw that none of them were present, he himself went to invite Gurudevan. “We shall have food”, said Ramana Maharshi. Gurudevan stopped the writing at once and accompanied Maharshi. After having the lunch, Gurudevan went back to the same spot where he was resting earlier. At that time, a postman arrived there with a telegram for Gurudevan. Maharshi received the post and read it. It was a letter seeking the blessings of Gurudevan for the consecration ceremony of a temple somewhere in Kerala. Maharshi wrote down the message in Malayalam and sent it to Gurudevan who was sitting under the tree. Reading it Gurudevan said, “Oh nice, Maharshi writes Malayalam beautifully”.
Mahadeva Swami, the Madathipathi of Ishanyamadom near Ramanashram, also came there with his disciples to invite Gurudevan to their ashram. Without any hesitation Gurudevan visited their ashram too. Gurudevan distributed the large amount of sweets which were offered to him among the people gathered there. Gurudevan gave special attention to a small boy among them who was plucking flowers in the garden. Gurudevan talked to the boy for sometime and later said to an inmate of the ashram, “You must educate this child. He will be a great man.” This child later became the reknowned and scholarly Madathipathi of Koviloor, Sri Nateshaswami Adigal.
After that Gurudevan returned to Ramanashram. By 4 o’clock in the evening Gurudevan departed from Ramanashram. It was mentioned earlier that while resting under the chamba tree Gurudevan was narrating something which were carefully being noted down by Swami Vidyananda. It was a poem named ‘Nirvruthi Panchakam’ which may have been composed as a tribute to the great renunciation of Ramana Maharshi. Before leaving, Swami Vidyananda gave this poem as a sacred offering to the Maharshi. The following is the poem and its brief meaning:
Nirvruthi Panchakam (Five verses on Tranquility)
Kim nama desha ka jathih pravrutthi ka kiyad vayah
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (1)
Meaning: What is your name? Where are you from? What is your caste? What is your profession? How old are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.
Aagacha gacha magacha pravisha kvanu gachasi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (2)
Meaning: Come! Go! Don’t go! Come in! Where are you going? He who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.
Kva yasyasi kada ayata kuta ayasi kosi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (3)
Meaning: When did you go? When did you come? From where did you come? Who are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.
Aham tvam soyam antarhi bahir asti na va asti va
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (4)
Meaning: Me or you, that or this person, inside or outside, he who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.
Jnata ajnata samah sva anya bheda shoonyah kuto bhida
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (5)
Meaning: Equal towards the known and unknown, without discrimination between self and others, then why is this difference? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.
In 1928, when Maharshi learnt that Gurudevan was seriously ill and resting at Sivagiri, he sent Pazhani Swami and Kunchu Swami to look after Gurudevan. Many monks from the lineage of Gurudevan like Salem Shantalinga Swamikal, Swami Achyutananda, Nataraja Guru, Swami Mangalananda, Nitya Chaithanya Yati, Swami Nijanananda, etc. visited Maharshi. Swami Govindananda and Swami Atmananda, the disciples of Gurudevan used to send ayurvedic medicines for Ramana Maharshi from their ashram at Kancheepuram. When Swami Mangalananda visited Ramana Maharshi to know more about Gurudevan’s visit in 1916, Ramana Maharshi said, “Guru was a great man. He had nothing to speak with me. He knew everything.” Maharshi used to receive them great love and affection. Once a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, Swami Balananda recited Gurudevan’s magnum opus poem on Advaita, the ‘Atmopadesha Shatakam’ for Maharshi. Maharshi listened to it with great attention and was clapping his hand over his thigh as the verses progressed saying ‘Appadi than, appadi than!’ (exactly, exactly). When the verses related to realisation came, Maharshi exclaimed ‘Ellam therinjavar…….ellam therinjavar (he knows everything). When he reached the middle portion of the poem, Ramana Maharshi stood up and exclaimed ‘Periyorkal….periyorkal (Great man, great man).
Really, only a self realised soul can fully understand another enlightened soul.
Credits : The whole article is from the collection of unknown writer from Sivagiri Matt.