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.