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  The Path of Total Surrender

In this interview Sri K. Anil Kumar, a faculty member of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, tells Dr. G. Venkataraman, former Vice Chancellor of the Institute, some interesting and illuminating incidents from the life of two old and ardent devotees of Bhagavan Baba - Sri Ramabrahmam and Sri Kamavadhani. Both of them followed the path of total surrender and earned Bhagavan's grace and proximity.

G.V. I would like you to speak about some old timers because they played a vital role in shaping the things of what we now take for granted. They were the pioneers. It is appropriate that we remember those pioneers. One of them whose name I heard you mention often is Sri Ramabrahmam. So, I would like you to tell us a little bit about Sri Ramabrahmam starting with when you first came to know him.

A.K. Sri K. Ramabrahmam belonged to Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh. Well, I knew him for 30 years, and I moved with him intimately ever since I took charge as the Principal of the Brindavan Campus, Bangalore in the year 1989. He was the caretaker then and used to visit me almost everyday. I was staying alone in the bungalow given to me at that time as my wife did not join me and my children were still studying. He used to come to me and give a pep talk since initially I did not know how to conduct myself with Swami. He served as the most faithful worker of Sai, a devotee par excellence.

G.V. Incidentally, when did Sri Ramabrahmam first come to Swami?

A.K. He said, he stayed with Swami for 30 long years.

G.V. So, that is what he told you in 1989; that means, more or less from 1959.

A.K. He stayed in Bangalore.

G.V. So, he was a Bangalore man, not Puttaparthi man.

A.K. It was all a forest in those days and there were no buildings.

G.V. Swami used to spend a lot of time at Brindavan those days.

A.K. Except the central old building, there was no other building whatsoever. There was only Swami's building in the centre. No lights as we find today. They moved in the midst of snakes. There are many, many things to learn from the late Sri Ramabrahmam. He never considered his job of caretaker of Brindavan as a means to earn his livelihood. He told me, "Never consider that this is your job, never consider that the college is a place where you work. Consider that these things belong to you. Just as you take care of your property, you should take care of Swami's college, hostel. Take care of the students, as you would take care of your own children." Sri Ramabrahmam had that spirit in him "-'   throughout. But the greatest thing about him was that he would never pray to Swami for anything. He said, "Never ask any personal favour from Bhagavan. He knows everything. When you do His work, He will do your work." What a great statement it is!

Sri Ramabrahmam had three sons; they used to visit their parents at Brindavan. Whenever the children came, they stayed outside with the devotees. He never told Swami that his son had come. But Swami always told him, "Ramabrahmam, your first son has come, give him accommodation. Ramabrahmam, your second son is there, give him accommodation." Sri Ramabrahmam told me that we should never ask any favour from S.wami. He will take care of us. We should do our work. Another thing he told was also a great statement. I asked, "How is that you are very serious in front of Bhagavan? I have never seen you smiling or cutting a joke. You stand like a military man with folded hands." He said, "Look here, I don't see Swami as you see Him. I observe three parallel lines of Vibhuti on His forehead. That makes me feel that I am in front of God. I cannot smile, I cannot take Him in an easy way. So, I always maintain that spirit."

Then another point he said, "If you were to continue staying with Swami, follow His instructions scrupulously, no margin whatsoever." He gave an illustration from his own life. Once Swami told him, "Why does your wife keep shouting so much? I hear her voice. The people in the Mandir also hear her voice." The very next day, he dropped her back home in Krishna district, 17 hours drive from Bangalore. Then he reported to Swami, "Swami, she is no longer here. You are free from her disturbing voice." Then after a week, Swami asked, "When is she coming, Ramabrahmam?" "I don't know, Swami", replied Sri Ramabrahmam. Again after a few days Swami asked, "When is she coming, Ramabrahmam?" "I don't know, Swami." This divine romance continued for a long time. Finally, Bhagavan became stern and said, "Ramabrahmam, I will send you out if you don't bring your wife." So, he had to go and bring his wife. He said, "There was a choice between Bhagavan and wife, I chose Bhagavan and not my wife."

G.V. Is it not very similar to what Swami often says about great devotees like Prahlada, Mira, Mahabali, so on and so forth? Even in this Kali Age, there are people like Sri Ramabrahmam. I have not come across examples of a choice between wife and God. This is a classic example.

A.K. He also said, "We have to follow Swami carefully. We cannot take anything for granted." He gave an instance. Bhagavan asked him to wear His own ochre robe. Sri Ramabrahmam was a well-built man, a hefty personality. He said, "Swami, my head won't fit into Your robe. How do You expect me to wear it?" Swami said, "No, nothing doing. You have to wear it." With great difficulty, he could push his head into the robe. He became breathless and was almost in tears. As he started wearing, the robe started expanding. Finally, it was a correct fit to his size. Sri Ramabrahmam said, "When He tells you to do something, He sees to it that you are able to do the task."

G.V. Was it to give Sri Ramabrahmam a taste of His Divinity?

A.K. That's what he always told. Another example. Once Swami called, "Ramabrahmam, come here." He was having a thermos flask in his hand. So, he thought it would be improper to go with the flask. He went into the kitchen, kept the flask, climbed up the steps and went to Swami. Swami said, "I called you a few minutes ago. Better you go back."

Once a big borewell was being dug in Brindavan. Seva Dal volunteers were at work. In spite of 20 - 30 feet depth, they could not get water. Sri Ramabrahmam happened to pass that way. Seva Dal members said, "Sir, why don't you also take a crowbar and help us in digging the well? Perhaps by the hands of a devotee like you, we may get water. Our efforts are in vain. You are the grand old man of Brindavan. Come on, take this crowbar and render some service." He was 70 years old at that time. He forgot his age, took the crowbar and started digging. Water sprang up immediately. But while returning, he slipped and fell on the ground. His pant and shirt became dirty. It was time for him to report to Bhagavan. Immediately he went, changed his dress, and reported to Bhagavan. Bhagavan said, "When you fell down there, I immediately came to your rescue. But some months back, when I called you, you went into the kitchen and took some time to come. You delayed in attending to My work, whereas I did not delay; I immediately rushed to save you. This you must learn." He often used to tell the devotees, "This is my experience, just as we expect Bhagavan to come to our rescue immediately, we should also do His work without any delay."

Sri Ramabrahmam narrated another experience. One day, Swami said suddenly, "Ramabrahmam, your second son has died. Don't tell your wife. She will be shocked. Both of you go to your native place. Finish off all that you are supposed to do and return." When they reached their native place, his wife saw the dead body of her second son. All the 17 hours, this man remained tight-lipped without divulging anything whatsoever since Swami had told him not to tell her. There the wife felt very bad that even after having come to know he did not tell her. He replied, "I would have revealed everything, but Swami instructed me not to tell anything because you had to travel for 17 hours. As a mother, you would not have been able to bear it." They finished the final rites and returned to Brindavan. His wife started crying, "Oh God! We lost our son." Swami said, "Why do you cry? He is with Me." "Swami, is he with You?" She asked. Swami replied, "Yes, he is with Me." Swami asked, "Do you want to see your son?" Then Bhagavan asked the couple to go into the interview room.

They saw with their own eyes their second son sitting there, who had already been cremated. When Swami says, he is with Me, he is really there.

G.V. Apparently, this is not the first such experience. Many others had this kind of experience. I was talking to the Raja of Venkatagiri, the present younger Raja. When Swami first went to Venkatagiri, after keeping the family waiting for several years, the first thing he (the elder Raja, now no more) asked was, "I want to see my mother who is no more." Swami said, "You want to see your mother, grandmother!" Swami looked at the wall and called out her name. She stepped out from the wall. The Raja touched her. She was in flesh and blood; he also talked to her.

A.K. Sri Ramabrahmam gave another instance. It was an occasion wherein he had to attend his granddaughter's wedding. He gave an invitation to Bhagavan personally. "Swami said, "You go." He was expecting that Bhagavan would tell him to go on 14th since his granddaughter's wedding was on 15th. But Swami did not say anything. After the marriage was over, Swami started enquiring, "Ramabrahmam, why did you not go?" Then he said, "Bhagavan, I take it positively. I feel that You did not want me to attend. So, I kept quiet without asking You." Bhagavan said, "Good boy, this is the sign of a devotee." He was not for any relationships nor for any business. Before coming to Bhagavan, he was a very rich man, involved in tobacco business. He did not have time even to count his cash.

G.V. And he was working here as caretaker. How did he happen to come to Swami?

A.K. As ill-luck would have it, he lost all his money. It was then that he came to Swami

His sons told that they were ever grateful to Swami for He took care of their parents tor forty long years. They said, "Our parents never came to stay with us. On the other hand, we were their guests; they were never our guests."

I want to tell you one more incident. It was the time when Sri B.D. Jatti was the Vice President of India. He was the one who inaugurated the hostel building. He was an ardent devotee of Bhagavan. It was Indo-Pak war time. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, sent Sri B.D. Jatti all the way to seek Bhagavan's blessings. He came by a special flight and went straight to Brindavan. It was 6 o' clock in the evening. Bhagavan had already retired for the day. As Sri Jatti was the Vice President of India then, he came along with a big convoy of cabinet ministers, local authorities and the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In their presence, Sri B.D. Jatti pleaded with Sri Ramabrahmam, "I have to report to the Prime Minister before sunrise. Please inform Swami that I am waiting for Him here. I must immediately go." Sri Ramabrahmam said, "I am sorry, sir. You can take my head. But you can never force me to knock the door of Bhagavan and request Him to talk to you. Impossible! Once Bhagavan retires, nobody dares to knock the door. I am sorry. If you want, you can have my head. That's all." Then Sri B.D. Jatti with folded hands said, "Okay, sir, what am I to do now?"

G.V. The Vice President of India said so?

A.K. "I suggest to you only one thing, sir. Sit here, squat on the floor and chant Sai Ram. You do it and Swami will take care", said Sri Ramabrahmam. Sri B.D. Jatti along with other cabinet ministers sat there repeating Sai Ram. What happened? After half an hour, Sri Ramabrahmam heard a knock from Swami's room. Swami opened the door and said, "Ramabrahmam, I am coming. Jatti is waiting for Me. Tell Jatti that I am coming." Swami came down, spoke to Sri Jatti who conveyed to Swami what he had been asked to tell. Sri Ramabrahmam said, "Had I not followed Swami's instructions, Sri Jatti would have been in trouble, and I would also have been in trouble. It would have been a very bad experience for me. Moreover, it was revealed to all that Swami knew everything - the urgency of the situation, the need to talk, when, where and how. None can force Bhagavan. Everybody has to wait for Bhagavan." That's what Sri Ramabrahmam used to tell me.

G.V. You have seen Sri Ramabrahmam from close quarters and interacted with him intimately. You are seeing so many other people also and are interacting with some of them closely. Do you feel that the kind of loyal devotees that Bhagavan had those days are scarce these days or there are still people with steadfast one-pointedness? Do you feel the people now are different because of the change in environment and climate or do you feel that devotees are devotees always?

A.K. There is a decline in standards in every walk of life. So, naturally there is a decline in standards in this field also.

G.V. Is it because they don't have these experiences or something else is the reason?

A.K. Old devotees had intense love for Bhagavan. For them, love for Bhagavan was first. Today it is not so. My intention, my motive, my desire first, devotion next. But in their case, devotion first, other things next. So, priorities are different.

G.V. Swami also talks about the Vedic scholar Sri Kamavadhani who renounced everything and refused to go back home. It is very nice to hear about another devotee of the same stature. Do you know anything about Sri Kamavadhani?

A.K. Excepting what I have heard from Bhagavan, I do not know much.

G.V. Okay, tell us about that.

A.K. Bhagavan said a few things about Sri Kamavadhani.

G.V. You must have seen him.

A.K. I saw him.

G.V. Have you talked to him.

A.K. Yes. Bhagavan said a few things about him. He was a great scholar in Vedic literature. I can say, none could equal him in this field. He was of that stature.

He was well-versed in all the Vedas, a most respected person in the State of Andhra Pradesh, particularly East Godavari, and a very rich man. But he said goodbye to his family, leaving all the property, children and grandchildren, and settled here at Prasanthi Nilayam.

G.V. That was long ago.

A.K. It was he who started teaching Vedic Mantras to our students here. There was a Veda Pathashala (school) in those days. He gave training to the students. He was incharge of all Dasara celebrations, and no surprise, one could easily make out Sri Kamavadhani's voice during Dasara celebrations as against the voice of the rest. There might be a hundred people, yet Sri Kamavadhani's voice was distinct, golden voice. The Mantras have to be chanted like that. He was a scholar and a great believer. Having come here, he never went back. But it so happened that Bhagavan wanted him to follow Him during His trip to East Godavari. Sri Kamavadhani belonged to East Godavari and the very village which he belonged to was also included in Bhagavan's programme. That is how Bhagavan plans. Bhagavan thought, "This man has not gone to his village, let him go to his people and spend some time." Bhagavan took him along with Him straight to his house. Everybody received them and Swami gave a nice talk also there. At the end of it, the children, grandchildren came to Sri Kamavadhani and said, "You have come after a long time, spend a couple of days with us and then join Bhagavan." This man said, "Nothing doing, I am leaving right now. I am following Bhagavan in His trip to East Godavari district. I am not going to stay here." Then he followed Bhagavan.

G.V. And what did Swami say?

A.K. Swami was just watching the drama and appreciated the devotion of Sri Kamavadhani. Having gone all the way to his house, Sri Kamavadhani had no regrets that he did not stay for more than a day or so, even less than that.

G.V. I heard he lived for one hundred years.

A.K. Yes, he was over hundred at the time of his death. Everyday, he used to report to Swami, both in the morning and evening, and Swami would grant him Padanamaskar. One day, Swami told him, "Go home, you don't have to see Me in the afternoon." He went home, did Puja, had his food and breathed his last. That is why Bhagavan didn't want him to come again. That too happened on the day he performed Sita Rama Kalyanam in the Mandir. Having performed the Divine wedding in accordance with Vedic injunctions, having had a sumptuous lunch, sitting comfortably, he left his mortal coil.

G.V. Well, I think, I can go on and on. But you must be tired. Let us stop at this point.

Courtesy: Radio Sai Global Harmony Prasanthi Nilayam
Source: Sanathana Sarathi, July 2004 Page 198-203

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