Monthly Archives: February 2017

Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi

Lakshmi was one of Ramana Maharshi’s most devoted and enlightened devotees. What makes this story so special and interesting is that Lakshmi was no regular devotee. She was a cow.

This story comes from the work of David Godman, who wrote on the life and teachings of Ramana Maharshi.  It starts in the middle 1920s when a man called Arunachalam Pillai had a dream instructing him to take a certain calf to Bhagavan. (Bhagavan is the title name of a holy teacher or glorious person.) Arunachalam Pillai did as the dream instructed. It was a long and difficult trip (approximately133km). Bhagavan, however, had a rule, not to accept any animal unless somebody in the ashram volunteered to look after it.

With no volunteers and not wanting the responsibility for himself, Ramana Maharshi tried to convince Arunachalam Pillai to take the mother and the calf back with him. Arunachalam, however, insisted that he had to leave it.  Bhagavan argued that he brought the calf and presented it as the dream demanded, so now with his obligation fulfilled, he could take her and her mother back.

Picture of Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 15, 1950)
That is when Ramanatha Brahmachari, one of Bhagavan’s devotees, who had no experience with animals, felt urged to jump up saying “I’ll look after it, Bhagavan. I’ll look after it!”

Still skeptical, Bhagavan accepted the calf and her mother to live at the ashram. They named the calf Lakshmi because it arrived on a Friday, Lakshmi’s Day, by Hindu tradition. Lakshmi is the Hindu god of wealth.

The cows made a mess of the vegetable garden, but Maharshi sided with the animals insisting it was the fault of Ramanatha Brahmachari for failing to watch them. The two animals devastated the ashram grounds. It was clear Brahmachari could not watch over them so the Ashram gave up the mother and her calf to a man in town named Pasupatti.

Some time later, Pasupatti came out to Ramanashram to have a bath in the tank that adjoins Ramanashram, bringing the mother and the calf with him.  After he had his bath, he brought Lakshmi and her mother to see Bhagavan.

From that day forward, Lakshmi would leave her caretaker in town every morning, come to Ramanashram and sit in the old hall next to Bhagavan, for the entire day. In the evening, she would go back to her stable in town.

Bhagavan would feed her special foods. She liked some of the same food as the human members of the ashram. She even had a favorite food.

Generally, when Lakshmi approached, she didn’t observe human protocols. There are several stories of her being in a very urgent mood to see Bhagavan. She would charge in trampling people who were standing in her way. Sometimes she would defecate in the hall. Still, Bhagavan never allowed anyone to criticize her or chase her away.

The reason Bhagavan said, is the animals that used to live at Ramanashram were the original tenants. They were the rightful owners of the property. “We’re squatting on their land. We have no right to inconvenience them in any way.”

He made it clear to all, that when Lakshmi entered, it was their job to get out of her way. She wasn’t able to negotiate tight spaces well. She would just walk straight to Bhagavan, trampling anyone in her way. He gave her complete free rein to come and go whenever she liked.

Lakshmi became a priority devotee. “When she comes in, give her some space. Let her come. Let her sit next to me.” Bhagavan instructed.

As she grew Lakshmi had nine calves of her own. Somehow she delivered three of her calves on Bhagavan’s Jayanti. That’s the annual celebration of his birthday. Coincidence or not, the author David Godman, does not know. Three calves in a row, for three years, however, is extraordinary.

Ramana Maharshi didn’t regard Lakshmi simply as a favored pet. She caught him with her devotion the same way that a few other devotees caught Bhagavan with their devotion.

Bhagavan seemed to understand and could mentally communicate with Lakshmi.  David Godman mentioned this to establish that Lakshmi could communicate complex notions and ideas to Bhagavan and Bhagavan could reply without spoken words.

One such incident was when the devotees were not feeding Lakshmi her favorite human food. Bhagavan responded by going on a hunger strike. When asked why he would not eat, he said he would not eat until devotees in the kitchen fed Lakshmi her favorite food. From then on she received her ration.

 photo ramana and lakshmi_zps8jk4u2dw.jpg
Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi

Lakshmi fell in love with Bhagavan as many devotees did. Every evening, it became more and more difficult to make her take the walk back to town. During this time, Pasupatti had some domestic difficulties. Once Pasupatti could no longer take care of the animals, they returned to the ashram as full-time residents.

Throughout the ashram, the members believed Lakshmi was the reincarnation of a woman who used to look after Bhagavan on the hill. Her name was Keerai Patti. The name Keerai Patti translates into English “Greens Grandmother,” greens as in eatable green plants.

“Greens Granny” was living on Arunachala even before Bhagavan came. Bhagavan said he first met her in the 1890s.

Keerai Patti was one of the first people who took it upon herself to collect food for him, cook for him, and serve him. In the early years of Virupaksha Cave, Bhagavan lived in the cave itself and Keerai Patti lived a few hundred feet down the hill.

When Keerai Patti died, she was buried under a tree along the road. Since that time, the local highway department decided that all of those gravestones were encroachments and bulldozed them away. Now, no one knows exactly where she was buried.

Keerai Patti died in the early 1920s and Lakshmi was born three years later.  Coincidentally, the town of Lakshmi’s birth was Gudiyatham, the same town as Keerai Patti’s birth.

Ramana Maharshi would never answer a direct question on whether Lakshmi was Keerai Patti reborn. The devotees who wrote about this said Bhagavan never said it wasn’t Keerai Patti. When books were written claiming Lakshmi was Keerai Patti, Ramana Maharshi always approved them for publication. Lakshmi died in 1948. Ramana Maharshi died on April 14, 1950.

If you liked this story or if you are interested in more detail, I suggest you see David Godman Youtube Video, talks on Sri Ramana Maharshi: Narrated by David Godman – Lakshmi the Cow. It is truly a great historical documentary on Ramana Maharshi.

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Facing Problems and Fears

Thoughts on Facing Problems and Fears

What is the best way to face our problems and fears? We are told many ways not to face them. Do not dramatize them, as that makes them bigger. Fighting them also makes them worse. If you push them down, swallow them, or run from them that makes them bigger too.

Everyone knows ways to run from things. We can use drugs, over-working, alcohol, relationships, games, or other entertainment. We can use food, illness, denial, anger, humor, or neurosis. It becomes obvious that running is rarely a good idea.

By facing them properly we are told, the fears and problems dissolve and you see that they never were anything at all. At least, that is what Gangaji and other great teachers tell us. It sounds good but quite frankly the author of this post just isn’t there yet. Are you?

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Ultimately we lose everything. Everything we fear must eventually vanish, but we also lose all we hold important. Our jobs, our homes, health, our mates, our children, our possessions, our friends, and our pets; we lose them all eventually. Nothing lasts forever and no one gets out of here alive.

We understand these things intellectually. They are obvious. Still, it is not so easy to actually live these ideas at the higher spiritual levels. Instead, all those things become even more problems and things to fear.

We can remember Ramana Maharshi, in “Who Am I?” We grasp the realization that we are not our bodies. We realize that we are not our thoughts and emotions. We are not even the air that we breathe. We discover that we are is that force which animates or allows all those things.

Can’t that just be another intellectual layer? A person can say I’m not this body and the problem is only an illusion, but if the fear or problem remains, the process is only another layer or a cheap mask at best.

The intellectual realizations may calm us in many instances. But how do we know we are really succeeding? How do we know we are facing problems and fear properly? The answer would be when they no longer consume us or cause, fear, worry, anger, or any other negative emotion. The answer is when we stop replaying them within our minds, in a repetitive loop.

Somehow we are to live, love, and experience both good and bad, but yet let go once the experiences are over. We are not to attempt recreating things the great teachers tell us.  But we do try. We experience fun, love, or joy and we try to recreate it. We have a special moment with someone and try to relive it. A couple has a special moment with the first child, they try to replicate it for the second child. Often it is not the same. Sometimes it is a disappointment. Clinging to happiness, we are told, chases it away. Misery appears as the joy vanishes.

We also recreate problems and fears. We humans like revisiting them too much to let go. We do it constantly. We worry. We obsess. We replay our fears and problems over and over in our minds. It’s almost a bit masochistic, isn’t it?

Some people carry their problems, pains, and fears so proudly they tell everyone they meet.  You would think they were medals of honor they received for heroic deeds. They can’t stop trying to relive and recreate the problems, the fears, or the pain. It becomes their identity. Still, embracing them and clinging to them is not truly facing them. “Emotionalism is the avoidance of the deepest emotions,” Gangaji tells us.

We also try to recreate spiritually. Meditation is an example. If we achieve a great feeling or realization, we keep trying to get it back. The chase almost always ends in frustration. We are told that we are not to do that. Krishnamurti instructs not to expect anything when we meditate. If you are expecting, you really aren’t meditating. You are chasing, or running. Trying to relive the past experience is not meditating. Furthermore the more you chase that blissful feeling, the more it eludes you. Only when you let go and let go of the grasping and expecting are you meditating he tells us. Many of the great teachers go on to tell us that life is the same way.

Problems, fears, happiness, life, and meditation seem to have some commonalities. Running from any of them seems futile. Nothing is gained. Clinging to them does not bring happiness or solve things either. It is opposite. Clinging to any them makes you feel worse or backfires.

It seems like you need the same approach for all of them. There seems to be a middle road that is difficult to find.   Do not cling. Do not run. Do not overanalyze. Do not recreate. Do not expect. Do not force. Do not fight. Do not judge. Do not justify. Do not regret, Do not repress. Do not hold grudges. Do not blame. Do not hate.

There seems to be no escape. The only way to approach fear and pain is with a calm level mind. “No matter how much you try to run away from hurt, you still experience it.”  Gangaji



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