Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
If you have read my sketchy account of Ramana Maharishi, you would remember that Ramana, a young Lad, to avoid being disturbed during His meditation would seek isolated places. Urchins would pelt Him with stones and injure Him but He didn’t care. There was one man who realised and recognised who Ramana Maharishi was and that was Seshadri Swamigal. This article is about Him. Just to refresh your memory, I have given below a paragraph from my article Ramana The MahaRishi.
It was then that a senior Swami, by the Name Seshadri, realising who Ramana really was, began to watch over the young Sage. Those who did not know Seshadri any way took Him to be a madman and He protected young Ramana. When realising that the pit would be the ruin of Ramana’s body, Seshadri with the help of a few likeminded people, picked up Ramana who was still clueless about His body and brought Ramana’s body near the shrine of Subramanya. His body was badly bitten and puss and blood sprang forth from various parts of His body. Ramana was oblivious to what had happened to His body.
It was Seshadri Swami who looked after Ramana, even when nobody really recognized the greatness of Ramana. He would protect the young Boy from the urchins and those who wanted to disturb Ramana or harm Him. It was Seshadri Swami who seeing Ramana’s body covered with blood, puss and bites from mosquitoes and scorpions, and knowing the Spirit of Oneness flamed within, but the body, having its own laws to follow, would succumb to the ravages of the underworld, made sure that Ramana was lifted tenderly from the pit by His disciples and taken to a safer and more hygienic place. He, Himself cleaned Ramana’s wounds and instructed His disciples to protect and nurture Ramana.
Seshadri Swami made it clear to one and all that Ramana was a Great Saint and that He was to be nurtured and protected.
He was clear that if He was the physical manifestation of Mother Parvati, then Ramana was Maa Parvati’s child, Skanda, known as Lord Subramanya.
According to me, one of the most fascinating aspects of Seshadri Swamigal, a Perfect Master of the highest stature, was His love for Ramana the Maharishi. Seshadri Swami was ten years older to Ramana. All His life that He spent at Arunachala, He made sure that people realised and recognized Ramana’s True stature in the spiritual Oneness Family.
Seshadri Swami would make sure that those who followed Ramana continued to obey and follow Ramana. Even those who wanted for whatever reason to abandon following Ramana and worship and treat Seshadri Swami as their Guru, would be made to go back to Ramana.
The complete lack of ego and the pure love He had for Ramana and the love Ramana harboured for Seshadri Swami is divine and profound.
It was due to Seshadri Swami’s love for Ramana that people of Arunachala addressed Ramana as ‘The younger Seshadri’.
Seshadri did not like people paying Him attention. He did not want a following. He didn’t care much for the institution of the Ashram. He would on purpose roam on the streets like a mad man; though not many people got fooled. The fragrance of The Master can’t be hidden, even if The Master wants it not to be revealed.
When Ramana had a large following and somebody commented that Seshadri was a mad man, Ramana spoke aloud, ‘There are three mad men here…the first is Seshadri, the second is Lord Arunachala (Lord Shiva), and the third is Ramana’.
Ramana often told His disciples that Seshadri didn’t like people coming near Him and thus He made sure that all the people came to Ramana.
It was a beautiful relationship. Both Gurus with an age gap of just ten years. Seshadri had arrived just seven years before Ramana to Arunachala. Both The Masters clear that Arunachala was the ‘be all and end all’ of all spiritual experiences. The mountain was the Hill of Divine Radiance and Spiritual Fire. It was Shiva’s Lingam of Radiance. It is believed that, even to glimpse this Hill or mountain, one could get salvation. Both Masters living the simplest and humblest of lives; both Masters in love with each other with no ego, no power play, no false up man ship.
The love Ramana The Maharishi had for Seshadri Swami was so intense that when Seshadri Swami took Samadhi, His close Spiritual Child and Friend was present during the last rites. But the greatest tribute that Ramana gave to Seshadri Swami was the fact that Ramana personally read and approved the biography of Seshadri Swami.
On His part, Seshadri who would shun crowds and people, would on His own accord go and visit the place Ramana resided and He would go like a simple devotee. He would sit amongst Ramana’s devotees and eat the meal. Seshadri had strange mannerisms and often while eating food, for instance while eating rice, He had the habit of sprinkling the rice on the ground (I am sure His intention was to share it with ants) but Ramana’s devotees would reprimand Him, and thus, when Seshadri was at Ramana’s ashram, He would make sure that He did not sprinkle a grain of rice on the ground.
Once when invited to eat, Seshadri Swami, made tiny balls of the food and kept throwing them all around. Then He stood up and began to walk away. When asked as to why He didn’t eat, He replied, ‘How can I, when so many animals, birds and celestial beings are standing around hungry?’
He would make sure to tell one and all to always follow Ramana. Anybody disgruntled with Ramana, would be told to go back and surrender to The Master. He could read minds and without the person saying a word, Seshadri would tell the individual to either follow Ramana or that He and Ramana were One and thus to go back to worshipping Ramana. He was clear that He wouldn’t accept anybody to worship Him who earlier was with Ramana. For Him, one followed One path and One Guru. One never changed one’s Guru, especially when the Guru is a Perfect Master.
Seshadri treated Ramana as His child. Often He would say Ramana was Skanda, Lord Subramanya and He was the Embodiment of Mother Parvati.
Many times Ramana spoke Seshadri’s words and the Latter spoke Ramana’s. He would always extol Ramana.
His love for Ramana was divine and selfless and so was Ramana’s love for Seshadri. Very rarely does one find such pristine love. I guess it’s only Perfect Masters who can recognize the Oneness in another and then extol the Other.
Once He told Ramana’s devotee, “Ramana earns ten thousand, while I earn one thousand, at least you try to earn hundred”. The devotee realised what Seshadri Swami meant was spiritual merit. Even here, He was pegged His worth at one tenth of Ramana’s spiritual greatness and in this lies the greatness of Seshadri Swami.
Seshadri Swami to the common man looked, behaved and dressed like a mad man. He came from a very powerful spiritual lineage. His grandfather, mother and father were Maa Kamakshi worshippers and devotion, knowledge and spiritual purity was in His lineage.
He was born on January 22, 1870 and since the age of two He began to meditate and by the age of five He was well versed in scriptures and at a very early age mastered classical music and astrology. His grandfather and parents already had realised His spiritual greatness. To the extent that His father told Seshadri’s mother, just before He took Samadhi that, “Seshadri is going to shine in this world. I have received Devi’s call. Either this evening or before tomorrow’s sunrise, I shall depart. You will be living with Seshadri under His Aura, and come later. You will also be liberated spiritually.” Just as He had predicted He took Samadhi at the time He had been told by Maa Kamakshi Devi.
After His mother passed away Seshadri would spend time in Temples or at the crematorium. When His family thought He was going nuts with so much of prayers and isolation, they would lock Him up in a room and nothing would please Seshadri more, as He could silently meditate and chant. He was clear that it is through prayers and chants that one cleansed oneself off one’s Karma and cleaned the mirror through which the Radiance of Oneness shone through, bright and clear.
He left home one day after being told off by His uncle and reached Arunachal when He was nineteen. He remained for the rest of His physical life, which was forty years in Thiruvannamalai, where Arunachal resides, till He took Samadhi at the age of fifty nine or sixty.
In the forty years He spent amongst the people of Thiruvannamalai, extolling Arunachal, He showed His divinity, though in the garb of a mad man. He was often seen at different places at the same time, much to the anguish and amusement of those trying to insist that they saw him here or there at that particular given time. He preached the philosophy of Oneness and insisted on one and all to go within and take one Mantra, one Guru, and that was all that was needed to tear the veil of duality and repose forever in Oneness. He often said to chant either Rama Rama or Aum Nama Shivaya or the Name of the Goddess or whoever one prayed to and then keep chanting that One Name and following that One God, Goddess, Master and it was through the constant meditation and chanting of that One Name, that the individual would be set free from the bondage of Karma and the physical body. He spoke very highly of “Kamokarshid mantra” which He believed if chanted one lakh fifty thousand times could get one rid in all totality, in one lifetime, of one’s entire Karmic Balance Sheet.
He saw God in everything. He would worship anything, man, woman, animal, lamp post, as He saw Divinity in all. What He wanted to teach, according to my demented mind frame, was that either you saw God in everything or you saw God in nothing. Make up your mind.
He would dress up in rags. If somebody would give Him something new to wear, He would let it be draped on His body for a few hours and then give it to the poor. Or He would tear it up and decorate a calf or a goat. He would enter a shop and throw things about and the shop keeper would be elated as that person’s business would shoot through the roof. Thus every time He passed the market, the shop keepers would keep their fingers crossed, hoping this mad man in tattered clothes would come and make a mess of their shop which would make their sales go through the roof.
He would on purpose go half shaven, edging people to go beyond the body and to recognize the Divinity that flamed within.
He had a peculiar manner of sitting, very uncomfortable for even the most spiritual adepts, with both heels touching, called the Swasthik Asan, where one would think He sat without touching the ground, just supported His entire body by pressure applied with the joining of the heels. Even Ramana would often comment, “I wish I could be as detached from my body as Seshadri Swamigal is.”
He was clear that one shouldn’t spend time in discussion about God and Master but one should spend one’s time in chanting The Name and in silent contemplation. That there was nothing impossible for one’s Master if one had true faith and surrender. The Master knew and knows best, all one needed was to have complete faith in Him or Her.
Due to His chanting and devotion He could read the past, present and future of all. His touch could heal and most importantly all those who came in contact with Him intimately, began to go within and walk The Path. He has promised that anybody who thinks of Him with love, will be granted visions, either through dreams or even when awake, of their God, Goddess and Master and how to move on the path of spiritual Enlightenment.
He would not allow those who harbored ill will or had nefarious intentions to come close to Him. He would run away from them or abuse them or pelt them with stones. But those in whom He saw the Radiance of the Divine, He would run towards them, embrace them, play with them and bless them freely. He didn’t care if the person was a man, child or woman. He was beyond the flesh. Also every day was a new day. Nobody could take advantage of the past with Him. He would treat the person on his or her present merit and not the past. Thus nobody was sure how he or she was going to be received by Seshadri, as for Seshadri the path to realisation and Oneness was a moment to moment walk forward.
He loved to sing and He could dance and play pranks and at other times be in isolation. He was unpredictable, but nobody could escape His greatness. One of His loving glances or touch could remove illness and sorrow and poverty. He was truly The Great One. He believed that instead of lighting lamps and spending money on flowers, one would make God happier if one fed the hungry, clothed the naked, treated the ill, gave shelter to the abandoned. His philosophy was simple, spend time in chanting, going within, whether one was in the world or alone. It is only through the path of going within and chanting The Name of God, Goddess, Master, would one reach the doorstep and get entry into the world of Oneness. To serve the poor and the underprivileged, was the surest way to please The Creator and nothing could substitute for good deeds which included helping the less fortunate, the right use of knowledge which meant living life that made the Master happy and proud of you and prayers with devotion were the surest way to reach The One. He would often say, “When you help others, God knows instantly and is pleased. No amount of prayer or meditation can do what helping others can do.”
He believed that feeding the poor was one of the quickest ways of gaining grace from The Creator and not only feeding the poor but praying with true devotion and heart that nobody should ever go hungry also brought about grace and blessings from above and within. Baba Sai of Shirdi, through channeling has often told one and all that before one eats one should always pray that “Oh Lord and Master I pray that just as you have given me and my loved ones food, please do not let anybody go hungry or thirsty. So be it as I pray.” Thus from Seshadri and Baba Sai of Shirdi, it becomes clear, that if each one of us would pray before eating, for all of creation to be fed, the Cosmos would slowly begin to listen and there would be hungry children and people who would receive food from a benevolent Providence.
Even He left His body in order to keep His disciples happy. Two incidents took place. One day He asked Subbalakshmi Ammal, an ardent follower of Seshadri, “Shall I build another house and do Yoga?” The poor lady humbly replied, “Yes go ahead and build another house”, little realising that there was immense inner meaning about building another house (a new body) and Yoga (union with The One).
The second incident was the disciples out of fervor wanted to perform abhishek (head and body bath) to their Lord and Master, Seshadri. He warned them lovingly that if they did so He would get fever. In India, devotees care jack about The Master, as long as they get their way. According to them the day was so auspicious that if they gave a head bath to their Master they would be blessed with Divine Grace. The Master once again told them to just sprinkle little rose water on His head but soon there was a huge line pouring bucketsful of water on The Master, who shut His eyes, knowing what the consequences were going to be.
Anyway, before this so called spiritual bath, Seshadri Swami for forty days had been suffering from fever. This false show of devotion via abhishek was virtually the last straw. His fever rose.
Then once again He did something nobody could really understand. Between two trees there was a curve, a depression in the ground, which was filled with ice cold water. He went and immersed Himself in the water for hours, not letting anybody come close to Him. It was raining heavily. After hours, at three in the morning He came out of the water and then went to the same lady’s home, from whom He had inquired as to whether He should get a new home. He looked at her and rolled on the floor and wept. I have a feeling His taking Samadhi was at a cross road. He could have avoided it but for whatever reason, the Karmic connect with the lady was such that the answer she would give would make it mandatory for Him to comply.
Soon the next day it was clear He was ready to take the final plunge into the ocean of Oneness. He allowed throngs of people to take His blessings and with a smile on His lips He entered into the state of Samadhi on April 1, 1929.
His Child, Friend and greatest love, Ramana was present when He was laid into Mother Earth. Ramana silently watched the proceedings. Ironical that it was Seshadri who made sure the young Ramana was tenderly lifted from the pit while He meditated, body bruised with puss and blood. And it was Ramana who made sure that Seshadri, His Father, Mother, Mentor and Friend, was tenderly placed into the womb of Mother Earth, to repose in Samadhi for eternity.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha