Reminiscences of Sri Bhagavan
Referring to the Self and the Lokas
By Sri Krishna Bikshu
IN spite of being in the universal state of realized identity, Bhagavan recognised the contingent reality of higher states equal to that of this mundane state. This was shown in the case of Venkata Sastri, one in the group of devotees who put to Bhagavan the questions recorded in Sri Ramana Gita.
This devotee had been ill for a long time and, expecting a near demise, he took sannyasa. Venkata Sastri sat fully conscious to the last as death was approaching, repeating the pranava (OM mantra) in an audible voice and from time to time reporting to those around him the staged withdrawal of the prana until, with his last utterance, the prana finally departed. This was reported to Bhagavan who said: "Is that so? In that case he will go, according to the Sastras, to Brahma Loka and abide there till the end of Brahma's cycle when he, together with Brahma, will merge in the formless infinity of Nirguna. Yes, Venkata Sastri must have gone to Brahma Loka. You can tell his people that I said so." What further proof is needed that Bhagavan did not regard the higher worlds as mere mirages?
To deny the truth of the lokas and their lords, which is proclaimed with a hundred voices by the Sruti, the Upanishads and all other scriptures is to deny the obvious. I have also heard Bhagavan say: "It is neither necessary nor possible for the body to have realization. I have at this moment twenty different bodies working in twenty different lokas, so if one of them suffers am I to grieve? I am not the body. One who considers himself the body may grieve, but how should I?"
On a different occasion we put the same question to Bhagavan, asking how he could exist in a number of lokas at the same time and he said that one could have as many bodies as he wished if he had the necessary power of yoga, adding: "Have you not read that at the time of Rasa Leela Sri Krishna assumed 16,000 bodies at the same time?"
Such statements by Bhagavan affirm the existence of a number of lokas or planes of existence of which he was aware but we are not. They also show that he could assume individual form in them as in this world. Advaitic purists may be shocked at this, saying that the scriptures say: "He is One." But that refers only to the universal state. Everyone is the same in essence on the plane of Paramartha, but that refers to fundamental, universal Reality. On the planes of empirical reality we have to note the existence of multiplicity. That is why Jesus could say: "I and my Father are One". They were separate on the empirical or manifested plane, since he had a body and the Father had not, but they were One in essence.
Some theoretical Advaitins hold that after realization even the notion of multiplicity no longer exists. They say that once a rope which was mistaken for a snake is known to be a rope that there can no longer be the illusion of its being a snake. But another school holds that even after realization the appearance of manifestation remains although it is known to be illusory. They cite the appearance of mother-of-pearl. There is no silver in it, but even though one knows this the silvery appearance remains. I have heard Bhagavan confirm this view.
We must remember that the lokas are empirical realities no more real than this world of ours but also no less real. Bhagavan confirmed this when a group of disciples from Tiruchirapalli asked him whether Siva and the other Gods and their heavens really exist. "Do you exist?" he retorted. They replied that they did, and he said: "Then in the same way they do too."
It was always to be observed that Bhagavan was against intellectual discussions about personalities or about his individual nature since he was setting before his devotees the highest goal of pure formless Being. How are we to understand activity on the part of one who abides in the state of Brahman? The Sruti says: "He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman." This implies that if it be the Saguna Brahman or personal God that he knows he will merge in the personal God, but if it be the Nirguna Brahman or the Absolute, then he will merge in That. Furthermore, Brahman is declared to be unmoving, unconditioned and inactive. How is this to be reconciled with the idea of His manifestation as an individual performing the work of such, whether in this one world or in many?
The writer's brother, Venkateswar, who wrote a life of Bhagavan in Hindi, once asked Bhagavan himself: "Swami, I see you doing work but I know that the scriptures say that the Jnani becomes one with Brahman and is non- dual. How are these two things to be reconciled?"
Bhagavan gave him the long, deep, concentrated look so familiar to his devotees and then said slowly and clearly: "Suppose I could explain this to you in words, are you in a state to understand it?"
My brother pondered for a minute and then had to confess that he was not. The activity of one beyond the range of words and thoughts is obviously not to be understood by a mind confined to them. This is a mystery that can only be unraveled by experience. Some say that it is all leela, others that it is maya, but both these explanations are just words; and words, having been formed after creation, can never go back to their source which is before creation and on a plane above them.
On another occasion a visitor named Amrutananda wrote on a piece of paper the first half of a verse. This ran: "Who is this Ramana, famed for his graciousness, who lives in Arunachala Cave? Is he Vararuchi or Siva or Vishnu or Dakshinamurti? I want to know the eminence of this Guru." Now the question is not about the essential nature of the guru but about a Ramana living in a cave on Arunachala. Amrutananda left the paper with Bhagavan and went out. When he returned he found it completed by Bhagavan with the words: "Ramana is the Supreme Spirit (Paramatma) who, in the form of Knowledge, abides in the heart-cavern of every person, from Vishnu downwards. If you come to the heart with the mind melting in love and see with the eye of wisdom this will be plain to you." He is not speaking here of Ramana as an individual but of the essential nature of Ramana.
(This and the previous article are taken
from the July 1965 (Vol.2, No.3) issue of "The Mountain Path" journal.)