Mesmerizing Moments with the Divine Master
Interview with Mrs. Rani Subramanian -
We devotees used to come from patha-mandiram (Old Mandir) to Prashanti Nilayam everyday till the quarters were built (inside the ashram) and we used to help with the sweeping and everything. So, during the construction, Swami ‘needed’ help with planting trees and other matters, and we used to serve. He Himself would allot the duties: “you do this; you do that…”
So we used to be in and out of Puttaparthi, and also attend bhajans in Prashanti Nilayam in the hall and then return – till the quarters were ready. Later, people started shifting here.
Some brought houses permanently; they could stay here, and others would come and stay and return. So, we were given rooms only whenever we came – because we were not staying here permanently. Those who stayed always had a permanent place.
Swami used to be in charge of accommodation. So as soon as we arrived, He would see who was coming. He would be standing on the balcony where they have fixed that silver door - there was no door then just an open veranda. So, when we would arrive, He would say from the balcony: “Oh! You have come! Very good! You can go and stay in this room.” They didn’t have enough quarters for everybody. So, He would put us with some family. And we mainly stayed with Kasturi Mama (uncle) – because He would say: “Go and stay with Kasturi.” We had the same food habits; we were from the same background (Iyers) and we could relate to the same type of food and everything. So, we became very close to Kasturi uncle.
One day, we were coming to Prashanti Nilayam and the Prashanti buildings were not ready yet. This incident happened before the building of the New Mandir. We just came to help with various things and we had to do bhajans too everyday. So, we were always in and out of Prashanti Nilayam. The foundation had been laid, and Swami was sitting on the sand – there were no chairs. And we three sisters came - my fourth sister wasn’t there with us then; she came much later.
Bestower of Bhakti and Mukti
As we were coming along, He called us: “Come here!” and He made us sit there with Him on the sand! We sat down. Then He looked at my elder sister, Kamala Sarathi – she was so blessed by Swami – and asked her: “What do you want? I will give you whatever you want!” She looked at us; it was a sudden surprise! She said: “Swami, I want bhakti, and mukti (devotion and liberation).” Then He looked at her and asked: “Are you sure you want that? It is difficult; do you want it? Bhakti and mukti?” She said: “Yes.” He said: “Don’t say that because I am asking you!” How could she say: “I want a beautiful house” or “I want some more money” or “I want my children to do well in life?” We have so many desires!
He said: “You be honest! Just because I have asked you, you don’t have to ask for bhakti and mukti. If you want something in the world, be honest and ask; I will give it to you.” Then she said: “No Swami; I have everything; I don’t think I want anything; I want bhakti and mukti.” He said: “Given! I have given you!”
Then, He asked my other sister, “What do you want?” And she also said the same thing. And He told her too: “You think before you give Me an answer! Be honest!” And she too said: “Swami, I also want bhakti and mukti.” Then He asked me: “What do you want?” I said: “Swami, I also want the same thing.” Then, I don’t know, why He repeated in my case: “Rani Maa, it will be difficult! Are you sure you want it?” I said: “Yes Swami, I want it.” He said: “Okay, I will give it to you!”
Then He spoke to us about – He always used to tell us something from the scriptures; either the Ramayana or the Bhagavatha – something spiritual; He never talked much about family or any other thing. And after that, we went out.
Attainment Through Trials
Then, after this incident, He came in my dream and said: “Rani Maa, do you know what you are going to pass through? You have asked for bhakti and mukti! I am going to treat you like a wet towel! Just like one rinses the towel to take out the water, I will squeeze you out. Will you be able to take it?” I said: “Yes, Swami!” He said: “Okay, but you are in for great tests!”
You see, I felt He didn’t tell all that to them in a dream; so I was just thinking to myself: ‘Why did He tell me that?’ Rightly, or wrongly, I came to the conclusion that for some people, their prarabhda (accumulated merits) is favourable. With a few tests, they can probably attain it or maybe, when He says: “I will give it,” He may not mean this birth! He may give it in the next birth, because for Him, death and birth have no significance! Life is continuous; the same soul comes and goes.
We read in the Bhagavad Geetha too that death does not signify the end of a personality; the journey continues after death too. So, with what reason He gave that to me, I don’t know yet! But in the dream, He did say: “Are you prepared? I will squeeze you like a wet towel! You can change your mind now too! You can say: ‘No, I am happy and comfortable in the world; I don’t think I want mukti yet.”
More than bhakti, mukti is more difficult – complete freedom from the mind; it’s like the role of a renunciant. I said: “No Swami, I want both bhakti and mukti. You can squeeze me!” After that, I passed through a lot of tests and trials - all sorts of suffering. I guess, because I had asked for it, I had to be prepared for any tests! Though I do suffer during the tests – not that I am above it – but, something gives me the courage to face it! I don’t go down with it; I keep on chanting His Name, and praying more. Swami says that’s the only way to keep up the equanimity of the mind - you pray all the time.
Swami says: “When a problem comes, don’t think of the problem. Just think: ‘All this is anityam (not true); it belongs to the nityaloka (worldly plane); I am going to transcend all this.’ And keep on chanting My Name, and I will give you the strength to face it.”
Affirming the Dream
Once, He called me for an interview in Prashanti Nilayam – alone – usually, He would call us in a group, but sometimes He would call us alone too. He asked me: “Rani Maa, do you have domestic problems?” I said: “Yes, Swami.” He asked: “Do you know how to transcend those problems?” I said: “No Swami, I don’t know; You will have to tell me.” He asked me: “When you have a dream, when do you realize you are dreaming?” I said: “Swami, when I wake up, I realize that I was dreaming.” He said: “Until you wake up, do you not identify with the dream as yourself?” I said: “Yes.”
You see, what He meant was that when we are sleeping, we are not aware that we are having a dream. In the dream, you feel that you are real; you are not aware that there’s another ‘I’ sleeping on the bed and dreaming! There’s no two ‘I’ – only one! He said: “Similarly, now you are dreaming.
"All these problems come under the realm of dream. So do you know what you must tell yourself? ‘Swami, it’s all a day-dream!’ If you say that, it will not touch you! But if you identify yourself with whatever is happening, you will suffer. So, you just have to play your role.”
That’s how He said we should detach ourselves from the identification. He said: “You see, you are all only playing a role! Role is like jeeva – the soul – ‘I am so and so!’ that is the ego – the false identification. That is not the real you. You have to tell yourself: ‘I am playing a role; but my real nature is atma. I am above all this, Swami.’ Constantly, you must meditate on that thought! Otherwise you will go down with your problems; you will suffer; you will be anxious; you will be worried. But you have to help yourself – like an antidote – and keep saying: ‘This is all a dream, Swami!’ If in spite of saying that, you don’t get that awareness, then ask Me: ‘Swami, please give me that awareness!’ I am always ready to give you whatever you ask! But you have to ask! I will not give it to you by Myself!”
He said: “If you ask for the right things, I will surely help you. If you ask for worldly things, I will give it to you too; but again, you will be caught up in maya (illusion); in delusion. But if you ask, I will give you the experience that it is all a dream, and it will not touch you.”
So, right from the beginning, Swami has been only giving us spiritual instructions.
Making Fast Progress
Once, after many years had passed, He called my sister and me for an interview. He said: “You see, you people have done a lot of sadhana (spiritual practice)! And for all the sadhana that you have done, you must have reached a very high stage! Your days were packed with spiritual activities - chanting, doing bhajans, and reading. But, in spite of all that, you have not reached the stage that you should have reached. Why? Do you know?” We said: “No, Swami. We thought that sadhana would take us there.”
He said: “Sadhana by itself cannot take you there. It should be a combination of self-analysis and sadhana – spiritual practices must be combined with self-analysis; because only self-analysis will tell you, as a human being, where you are going wrong.”
We are not acting from an atma level (the level of the spirit); I am now acting in the world as a human being – I am somebody’s mother, somebody’s wife, somebody’s sister, etc.
He said: “Self-analysis will help you to point out your mistakes and will tell you where you have failed spiritually. Unless you do self-analysis, you will not be able to progress. Now, you must cut your sadhana down to 1/4 th; your self-analysis should be 3/4 th! Then, your progress will be very fast!
“How you talk, what you hear, what you do, what you eat, you must analyze everything – every walk of life! ‘Am I doing the right thing? Is it spiritually alright? Am I thinking the right way? Am I talking the right way? Am I doing the right thing?”
Even regarding the possessions, He told me and my sister: “Simplicity is a must for this path! Make your journey comfortable with light luggage! Too many possessions are not needed; make them minimum. Don’t add more and more to your life because it is like an obstacle to your spiritual path. Keep it to minimum so that you don’t give your mind to various things.”
So, after that, we started doing more self-analysis - because earlier, we used to have many sittings and made time to do japa, meditation, and bhajans, etc.
Finding the Right Priority
Then, another incident happened when I was staying here in Prashanti Nilayam, which is very interesting. One day, He sent for me in the morning, at 7 o’clock . My younger sister was in personal service during those days – she is a brahmacharini; she never married. He sent word through her: “Go and get Rani Maa.” She came down and said: “Swami wants you to come up.” I went upstairs. He welcomed me very nicely. “Please sit down!” He said. I was wondering why He sent for me and was feeling nervous. I thought maybe I made a mistake and maybe He was going to chastise and correct me.
He said: “Rani Maa, I have to tell you something about a gentleman, who is a businessman.” I was wondering why He should tell me about some businessman! But I didn’t ask Him anything. He said: “One businessman came to Me and I gave him an interview. Once, in the interview, he told Me he had a lot of problems and was under great tension and stress because of those business problems. I told him I would give him some spiritual practices to do and to come and see Me after sometime.
“He came after sometime, and again I called him for an interview, and I asked him how his business problems were. ‘It must be less, isn’t it?’ He said, ‘No Swami! It is just the same!’ I asked him, ‘How can it be just the same? No! It cannot be! Did you do what I had asked you to do?’ I had given him some instructions…‘do this in the morning and that in the evening’…etc.
“He said: ‘Swami! What can I say! I was so busy and so caught up in my own problems, I could hardly find time to do Your practice that You advised.” Then Swami asked him a question: “Okay, you were very busy and didn’t have time to do your spiritual practices. But at that time, when you were so busy, did you give up your morning coffee?” He said: “No, I didn’t.” “What about your breakfast? Did you give that up? Even if you didn’t have it at the right time, you must have had it later? Is it not?” He said: “Yes, Swami; I didn’t miss my breakfast.” “Did you miss your lunch?” He said: “No.” “Your tea?” “No.” “Your dinner?” He said: “No.”
Then He told him: “How many sittings you had for deha (the body); shareer ahara (food for the body) – coffee, breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner! 5 sittings for the body! Which you have to drop any day! But, your atma (spirit), which is your true nature, which is really going to bless you, and keep you peaceful and happy - atma level alone can give you that; shareera (body) level will not give you that – but for that you didn’t give even one sitting? And you want My Grace? How can I give you Grace?”
Swami told me: “See, people want My Grace, but they don’t obey My instructions.” He told him: “Atma ahaara (food for the spirit) is more important than shareera ahara (food for the body).” I don’t know what He told him to do, but if He told him to do Gayatri for an hour, then he should have given that a priority. That’s what Swami told me: “You people should give priority to My instructions and not to what you want to do.”
He said: “Give up shareera ahaara; but not atmaahaara - unless you feed the atma (spirit), it will not awaken. That is your spirit; which is Bhagavan (God); which will not be available if you are feeding your shareera (body) all the time, when your atma has been starving!” He told the businessman: “By not following Swami’s instruction, your atma will starve. You have given priority to food for the body and no importance to the soul; how can I help you? If you want My help, you have to do what I tell you. That should be your priority.”
You see, in a way, it was a general thing; but He also wanted me to realize that. Instead of calling me and telling me directly do this and do that regularly; He quoted that gentleman like an example. That’s all. I told my sister it was a teaching for all of us.
Suppose a Guru told you to read the Bhagavad Geetha; or to do japa, or to meditate, then what if you say: ‘I have got too much work today, so I won’t read the Bhagavad Geetha’? If you didn’t have time to read the Bhagavad Geetha in the morning, do it in the evening! God doesn’t say ‘Do it at this time!’ If it elevates you, why are you not reading it? That is giving you help. Are other people giving you help? Going shopping or going to see someone here and there - that’s not going to help you! If we are on the spiritual path, but are giving priority to the wrong thing, yes, His Grace will always be there, because we are all His children; but it will depend on the percentage of our performance. Just like, if you are a student, you will get 40% or 80% or 100% - according to your performance; so it is the same with Bhagavan!
(To be continued…)