9 February 2011

Story of Ratilal

The below is one of my favourite stories concerning Ramana Maharshi. The narrative doesn’t deal with sadhus, swamis or spiritual aspirants -- its about an ordinary man suffering from a relatable problem and how the darshan of Ramana Maharshi transformed Ratilal’s despair into joy. In addition the story of the animals half-way through this narrative is a beautiful and welcome anecdote of Ramana’s love of all creation.

Story of Ratilal
Recounted by T. R. A. Narayana

“IN 1948, I WAS in my thirty-ninth year. I lived in Madras in a good place, with my wife and four charming children. I was the Madras Branch Manager of a large British firm with its Indian Head Office in Calcutta. Being in happy circumstances, I did not feel the need for any religious practices or spiritual inquiries. I was contented and enjoyed the good life, accounting that as the purpose of living.

On an official tour with Inspector Parthasarathi, I was on the platform of Villupuram Junction on a hot April day, waiting for the train to Katpadi Junction. We were to visit Tiruvannamalai. While Parthasarathi and I were getting into a first class compartment, we saw a young man of about 25 years, trying to enter the same compartment through the next door.

The man was so fat that he found great difficulty getting aboard. He heaved his huge body this way and that, while another man on the platform, obviously his servant, pushed him forward. The man was perspiring profusely and looking ashamed at the curious way people, including Parthasarathi and myself, watched his sorry state. He got in somehow, and occupied the cubicle next to ours.

When the train had run for some minutes the man joined us. He introduced himself as Ratilal Premchand Shah and started talking about himself. Ratilal was a Saurashtra Gujarati Vaishya, born and brought up in Gondal. The only son of his father who was one of the richest merchants of that city. He had been married for six years. Corpulent from his tenth year, he had been unable to do anything useful since that age. Now at 25, he was just a huge mass of fat and misery.

Ratilal had left school at the age of 12 after passing standard four with great difficulty. He never read books or periodicals. In the last week of March, Ratilal had a vision while asleep. He saw an ascetic dressed in only a loin-cloth, smiling and beckoning to him for quite some time. He stood clearly before Ratilal’s mental eye when he awoke. Ratilal did not speak to anyone about the vision. Two days later, his wife was reading a Gujarati magazine, and Ratilal looking over her shoulders, saw the picture of the ascetic he had seen in his vision.

His wife told him that the ascetic was Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai, and that the Maharshi possessed rare spiritual gifts. Ratilal at once went to his father and arranged a journey to Tiruvannamalai with the trusted family servant. He knew nothing about Bhagavan, only what his wife had told him from the magazine article. He felt
sure though that all of his suffering was going to end as soon as he reached the Guru’s Ashram.

Parthasarathi said that he had Darshan of Bhagavan many times and also read a great deal of books about him. He assured Ratilal that the lad’s faith would prove to be worthwhile. The two young men talked all the way to Tiruvannamalai, which took more than two hours. I was reading a novel, but was really listening intently to their conversation. At Tiruvannamalai Station, Ratilal was received by a local merchant with whom his father had arranged his stay. Parthasarathi and I proceeded to the Travellers’ Bungalow.

It was four o’clock when we took our rest and had tiffin. Parthasarathi knew that I was a business-like Manager, and not likely to waste a single moment. He said we could visit the market, if I wanted to now, and was very surprised when I said: “No, Parthasarathi! We will go and have Darshan of Bhagavan first. Then if there is time, we will go to the temple. Let the Company’s business wait!”

It was about five o’clock when Parthasarathi and I entered Ramana’s Ashram. Where we walked around Bhagavan’s Mother’s Samadhi. (grave) Then we walked towards the verandah. There were some fifty people sitting there. Ratilal, his servant and his host merchant were also there. Bhagavan though, was not. The visitors talked in whispers, trying to find out where he was.

After waiting for some ten minutes, and still no Bhagavan, Parthasarathi suggested that we view the Ashram compound.

After our inspection, we were on the way back to the verandah by another side, when we heard a childish voice, “Chee! Asaththe! (Chut! You naughty!).” We could not see any children around, and therefore cast our eyes carefully to find out where the voice came from? Then we observed some movement among the leaves of the Bringal, and other plants in the kitchen garden, aside the verandah’s end. Looking at the quarter more intently, we saw a small goat, a little monkey and a squirrel, and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi! He was sitting on his haunches with his legs folded.

The goat nestled between Bhagavan’s knees; the monkey had its head resting on his right knee; the squirrel sat perched on his left palm. He picked groundnuts from a piece of paper with his right hand fingers, and one by one fed the goat, the monkey and the squirrel, and himself last, strictly in that order.

His remarks appeared to have been addressed to the monkey which had tried to snatch the nut he was going to place between the squirrel’s lips. As we watched, the foursome went on enjoying the nut meal. All the four members seemed to be equally happy, and the way they looked at one another and kept close together was very touching. The goat, the monkey and the squirrel, and Bhagavan too, had obviously forgotten their differences in species.

And we too, looking on, saw all the four only as four varied forms of the same creation. I cannot find words to describe clearly the thoughts and feeling which passed through my mind then. The vision of the Supreme Cosmic Consciousness appeared as a flash of lightning, and disappeared in the grossness that I was. The split second of the duration of that vision contained the essence of all existence, knowledge and bliss, Sat-Chid-Ananda!

The nut meal was over. Bhagavan threw the paper away, and said, “Ponkoda!” (go away, brats!) just like any common man speaking to his wee grand-children. The goat the monkey and the squirrel left. Bhagavan got up. Parthasarathi and I slipped off hurriedly, feeling guilty of trespass into the Divine, but not sorry.

Soon after we resumed our seats on the verandah, Bhagavan came to his cot. He stood still for a few minutes, facing us. But I cannot say he looked at us. His eyes appeared permanently fixed on something far above and beyond the confines of this earth. They did not seem to be instruments for looking at all, but screens to shut out the material world from him, so he might concentrate more on the Light within. Sparks of flame shot out through the holes of the screen at times, sparks which cooled the objects on which they fell, and penetrated all the coverings of gross material around the objects and lighted up the wicks of consciousness inside them.

All of us got up and fell at full length towards Bhagavan. He held up his right palm till we had resumed our seats. Then he sat on his cot, reclining on the pile of cushions at its head, putting his left palm to his temple. We sat and looked at his face. It wore the same expression, or lack of expression, with which he had stood before us. He continued to sit in the same position and with the same look; we continued to look at him. No one spoke or made any attempt to speak. But the confrontation was not a dead silence; it was a very live experience in which the innermost being of each one of us communed with the Glory of the Supreme Cosmic Consciousness which Bhagavan was. I was numb with the appalling realisation that the Glory resting on the cot was the same that had dwelt in the form of stillness, that I had seen minutes ago, eating groundnuts in the intimate company of small animals.

Bhagavan got up from the cot. Then we all stood up. As we left, I felt a strange and hitherto-unknown peace and joy inside me; the faces of the others showed a similar condition of mind. There was a new spring in Ratital’s gait as he walked to the Ashram gate; Bhagavan’s Grace had obviously started working inside his body.

Many things have happened to me since that memorable day in April 1948, causing domestic and financial troubles. But my inner life has been always happy. Whenever I feel low, a vision of Bhagavan in the kitchen garden takes care of it.

In 1953, when I was in Rajkot, and employed as a Manager for an automobile firm. One day, a man of about thirty came into my office and accosted me with the question, “Don’t you recognise me, Sir?” “No, please,” I replied, truthfully. The man continued: “I am Ratilal of Gondal, Sir! Do you remember the Darshan of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi five ears ago?” I looked more attentively at the man. He was lean and wiry, with his face aglow with health and happiness. I shook his hands heartily and told him to be seated.

He complied and said: “Sir, Bhagavan fulfilled his promise wonderfully well. You see me. I am now managing our family business. I have a son and another is on the way.” Ratilal closed his eyes in gratitude to Bhagavan.”


Anonymous said...

Loved the story of Ratilal. I have read it before but always enjoy the beauty of the story.

Claire Worthing said...

I agree this must be one of the best stories associated with Sri Ramana and how he affected lives in so many different ways.

Rajeev said...

One of the best Ramana stories.The kitchen garden scene is the essence of Ramana.The writer too was perceptive enough to see it the way it had to be seen.Beautiful!

Divya said...

Beautiful and so touching!