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Place yourself as an instrument in the hands of God who does his own work in his own way
               The birth of Swami Ramdas, who was known in his pre-Sannyas life as Vittal Rao,took place at Hosdurg, Kanhangad, North Kerala, on Thursday, the 10th April 1884. It was a day of the full moon and it happened to be Hanuman Jayanti, i.e., the birthday of Hanuman, the greatest devotee of Sri Rama. This happy synchronisation seemed to augur well in advance for the great future that was in store for the child born that day to Sri Balakrishna Rao and Srimati Lalita Bai. The one remarkable thing about him, that people who saw him then observed, was the extraordinary lustre of his eyes.
          Vittal was not overfond of his school or his books, and so came in for a large measure of his teacher’s wrath. He often played truant, but in vain did he hide  himself in the bathroom or in the loft of the cow-pen, for his ubiquitous teacher was well aware of the favourite haunts of his recalcitrant pupil. His High School career too was marked by his extreme indifference to studies and supreme dislike for his textbooks. Although he refused to be cramped by the School curriculum, he became a voracious reader and read all the books of general interest he could lay his hands upon. His taste for literature enabled him to acquire even at so early an age a remarkable fineness and facility in his English style. His intelligence even as a student was of a high order. Whatever he once read he made his own. He was even then a good conversationalist and had inherited from his father an unequalled sense of wit and humour. He would, as he does even now, raise roars of laughter from his listeners by the unique manner in which he related incidents from his own life or observations. The humour always lay more in the narrative of an event than in the event itself and he knew it. Whatever be the situation he was placed in for the time being, it was the lighter side of it rather than the serious one that appealed to his keen sense of the comic and the ludicrous in life.
             As could be expected, Vittal lagged behind in his studies with the result that he could not get through the Matriculation examination. He then joined the school of Arts and took a course in drawing and engraving. Though his progress here was remarkable, as the future prospects that this course held out were none too bright, he discontinued the course and joined the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute of Bombay and took up the Textile Engineering course. At the end of the three- year course at the V.J.T. Institute, Vittal Rao received his diploma in Textile Manufacture. When he was employed as Spinning Master in a cotton mill at Gulbarga, he was married to Rukmabai in the year 1908 and a daughter, Ramabai, was born to him in 1913. Throughout his life in service, brief periods of employment were followed by longer periods of unemployment and idleness. Before he had hardly settled down at one place, depending upon the appointment he had  secured, circumstances so seemed to work up that he lost the post for no fault of his and he had once again to embark on a quest of securing some fresh means of livelihood. Thus, for him, continued domestic felicity was not to be and the sweet pleasures of a home of his own were, for the greater part of the year, denied to him.
       After a chequered career of several years he finally came down to Mangalore in 1917 and joined his father-in-Yaw in his business. It went against his grain to stoop to any of the ‘tricks of the trade’. Inevitably this led to a clash with his father-in-Yaw and he soon severed his connection with the business and started  his own business in dyeing fabrics and printing sarees. But he was too good to be a businessman and the financial condition of the business was drifting from bad to worse. His domestic life also was none too happy. Slowly and imperceptibly the external circumstances were helping Vittal Rao’s religious inclination to become deeper and his spirit of dispassion to gain an added strength and impetus. Every evening he spent an hour at the house of his brother, Sitaram Rao, whose children would be engaged in Bhajan before the image of Sri Krishna. During the Bhajan, Vittal Rao would lose himself in a blissful state of self-forgetfulness. It was at this time Vittal Rao started chanting the Lord’s name ‘Ram’ and the repetition of the name brought him great mental peace and joy. He kept up a ceaseless flow of the blessed Name on his tongue and its humming would automatically issue from his lips even when he was at work or was walking in the streets. He gave up the night meal and other petty comforts of the body. His wife got thoroughly frightened at the strange turn her husband’s life was rapidly taking now. No persuasion, appeal or protest either from her or from his child could induce him to alter the course he was now made to follow. Because, he felt very strongly that he was set upon this path by that Highest Power which he was struggling to attain and realize.
(copied from “IN QUEST OF GOD”)
NOW from the narrow pond of a worldly
life Ram had lifted up his slave to throw him
into the extensive ocean of a Universal Life.
But to swim in the wide ocean, Ram knew,
Ramdas wanted strength and courage, for
gaining which Ram intended to make his
ignorant and untrained slave to pass through a
course of severe discipline, and this under His
direct guidance and support. So, one night while
engaged in drinking in the sweetness of His
name, Ramdas was made to think in the
following strain:
“O Ram, when Thy slave finds Thee at
once so powerful and so loving, and that he
who trusts Thee can be sure of true peace and
happiness, why should he not throw himself
entirely on Thy mercy, which can only be possible
by giving up everything he called ‘mine’? Thou
art all in all to Thy slave. Thou art the sole
Protector in the world. Men are deluded when
they declare, ‘I do this, I do that. This is mine,
that is mine’. All, O Ram, is Thine, and all
things are done by Thee alone. Thy slave’s one
prayer to Thee is to take him under Thy
complete guidance and remove his ‘I’-ness.”
This prayer was heard. Ramdas’ heart
heaved a deep sigh; a hazy desire to renounce
all and wander over the earth in the garb of a
mendicant – in quest of Ram – wafted over his
mind. Now Ram prompted him to open at
random the book – “Light of Asia” – which was
before him at the time. His eyes rested upon
the pages wherein is described the great
renunciation of Buddha, who says:-
“For now the hour is come when I should quit
This golden prison, where my heart lives caged,
To find the Truth; which henceforth I will seek,
For all men’s sake, until the truth be found.”

Then Ramdas similarly opened the “New Testament” and lighted upon the following definite words of Jesus Christ:-
“And everyone that hath forsaken houses or brethren or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.”

Then again he was actuated in the same
way to refer to the “Bhagavad Gita” – and he
read the following Sloka:-

Ananyaaschintayanto Maam ye janaah paryupaasate
Teshaam nityaabhiyuktaanaam yogakshemam vahaamyaham

“Abandoning all duties come to Me alone
for shelter, sorrow not, I will liberate Thee from
all sins.”

Ram had thus spoken out through the
words of these three great Avatars – Buddha,
Christ and Krishna – and all of them pointed to
the same path – renunciation. At once Ramdas
made up his mind to give up for the sake of
Ram, all that he till then hugged to his bosom
as his own, and leave the Samsaric world. During
this period, he was very simple in his dress
which consisted of a piece of cloth covering
the upper part of the body and another wound
round the lower part. Next day, he got two
clothes of this kind dyed in Gerrua or red ochre,
and the same night wrote two letters – one to
his wife whom Ram had made him look upon
for sometime past as his sister and another to
a kind friend whom Ram had brought in touch
with Ramdas for his deliverance from debts.
The resolution was made. At five o’ clock in
the morning he bade farewell to a world for
which he had lost all attraction and in which he
could find nothing to call his own. The body,
the mind, the soul – all were laid at the feet of
Ram – that Eternal Being, full of love and full
of mercy.
Papa was thus directed to Srirangam. Here he bathed in the holy Cauvery and, after offering up his old white clothes to the sacred river, he donned the ochre robes of a sannyasin and underwent spiritual rebirth. As prompted by Ram Himself, Papa assumed the new name of Ramdas (servant of Ram) and took the inviolable vows of sannyasa, renunciation. Papa never referred to himself in the first person ever again.
With the name of God constantly on his lips, Papa continued his travels in the company of itinerant sadhus. The journey took him to Tiruvannamalai, where he stood in front of Bhagavan Ramana and prayed for his grace.
About this experience Papa himself has said, “The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessings through those orbs, nodded his head to say he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.”
In that ecstatic state he left Maharshi’s presence and went to spend nearly a month in a cave on the slopes of Arunachala in constant chanting of Ramnam. This was the first occasion that he went into solitude. After twenty-one days, when he came out of the cave he saw a strange, all-pervasive light: everything was Ram and only Ram.
Papa continued his travels, which took him to many parts of India, including the sacred shrines in the Himalayas, and then on to Bombay and finally back to Mangalore, where he spent three months in the Panch-Pandava cave at Kadri. It was here that he had his first experience of nirvikalpa samadhi. About this experience he writes: “For some days his meditation consisted of only the mental repetition of the Ram-mantram. Then, the mantram having stopped automatically, he beheld a small circular light before his mental vision which yielded him thrills of delight. This experience having continued for some days, he felt a dazzling light like lightning flashing before his eyes, which ultimately permeated and absorbed him. Now an inexpressible bliss filled every pore of his physical frame. When this state was coming on, he would at the outset become oblivious of his hands and feet and gradually his entire body. Lost in this trance-state he would sit for two or three hours. Still, a subtle awareness of external objects was maintained in this state.
“For two years from the time of the significant change which had come over him, Ramdas had been prepared to enter into the very depths of his being for the realisation of the immutable, calm and eternal spirit of God. Here he had to transcend name, form, thought and will–every feeling of the heart and faculty of the mind. The world had then appeared to him as a dim shadow–a dreamy nothing. The vision then was mainly internal. It was only for the glory of the Atman in His pristine purity, peace and joy as an all-pervading, immanent, immortal and glowing spirit.
“In the earlier stages this vision was occasionally lost, pulling him down to the old life of diversity with its turmoil of like and dislike, joy and grief. But he would be drawn in again into the silence and calmness of the spirit. A stage was soon reached when this dwelling in the spirit became a permanent and unvarying experience with no more failing off from it, and then the still more exalted state came on: his hither inner vision projected outwards. First a glimpse of this new vision dazzled him off and on. This was the working of divine love. He would feel as though his very soul had expanded like the blossoming of a flower and by a flash, as it were, enveloped the whole universe, embracing all in a subtle halo of love and light. This experience granted him a bliss infinitely greater than he had in the previous state. Now it was that Ramdas began to cry out, ‘Ram is all. It is He as everybody and everything!’ This condition was for some months coming on and vanishing. When it wore away, he would instinctively go into solitude. When it was present, he freely mixed in the world, preaching the glory of divine love and bliss. With this externalised vision Ramdas’ mission began. Its fullness and magnificence was revealed to him during his stay in the Kadri cave, and here the experience became more sustained and continuous. The vision of God shone in his eyes and he would see none but Him in all objects. Now wave after wave of joy arose in him. He realised that he had attained to a consciousness full of splendour, power and bliss.”
In his accounts of his travels and dealings with devotees, humour was never far from Papa’s lips. Always a keen sense of proportion levelled the absurd to the mundane and raised the mundane to the sublime.
Once Papa was rambling aimlessly through a bazaar, not begging, indeed indifferent to food, as he was on a water fast.
“Who is that man?” a passer-by enquired of a merchant, pointing at Papa. The merchant replied, tapping his temple, “He is a half-cracked”.
Papa, overhearing the remark, went up to them to correct the merchant’s words. “No, brother, not merely half-cracked. Why not say full-cracked, which is the truth?” So saying, Papa passed on his way.
Any doubt about Papa’s sense of proportion is washed away completely by the “Boot-kick Puja” episode. Papa had been staying at Limbdi, where he was being sumptuously looked after and treated with the utmost respect. Every day more than a hundred people came for his darshan and satsang. Never attached to such externalities, as soon as Papa received the inner command of Ram to quit the place, he left. The tedious train-ride was broken at several places by a change in trains. One occurred at about ten at night.
Entering a third-class carriage, Papa found that it was very full, and everyone was lying down at full length on their bedding, leaving no room for any other passenger. Somehow, however, Papa found a perch at the feet of a particularly short passenger. At the next station, a number of new passengers poured into the carriage. These had to stand in the narrow passage between the seats, while not a single sleeping passenger made room for them. Papa felt that he should give up his seat for one of them and so quietly slipped down to the floor and stayed there. His former perch was, of course, immediately taken.
At the next station, a fresh set of passengers came in. The rush was now so great that they began tramping through the passage with their heavy boots, searching for some available place to sit. Papa, crouching on the floor like a rabbit, received their kicks with no small delight. He rolled himself down and twisted his body into a figure 8 in order to take up the least amount of room. Station after station new passengers came in. They crowded the passage to well-nigh suffocation point. Some of the sleeping passengers were even forced to sit up. So Papa was treated with boot-kicks from all four sides. Seated passengers had to knock against him when changing the position of their legs. The ones standing in the passage added their share whenever they were shoved. Papa’s only covering was a single cloth from head to foot. He looked not unlike a cloth bag on the floor. Reflecting upon the situation, Papa said to himself:
“Ramdas, only a few hours ago you were receiving puja (worship) at the houses of several devotees with flower garlands, sandal paste and arati (waving of lights). That was one kind of puja. Now here you are, immediately afterwards, getting another kind, with boot-kicks! Where is the difference? Is there any less Ram in the one than in the other?”
And so Papa went on chuckling to himself throughout the rest of the journey.
He travelled all over India many times during the next few years and finally settled down in a small ashram built by one of his devotees at Kasaragod, Kerala. It was here that Mother Krishnabai had his darshan and decided to dedicate her life to his service. Mother Krishnabai tells of her own life and realisation in her autobiography, Guru’s Grace. By God’s will, circumstances caused them to leave Kasaragod and settle down in Kanhangad, where the present Anandashram was founded in the year 1931. This Ashram became a field for them to put into practice the universal love they had gained as a result of their universal vision. Although Papa attained mahasamadhi in 1963 and Mataji Krishnabai in 1989, the motto of the Ashram continues to be Universal Love and Service.
About man’s relationship with God, Papa says, “Man is God playing the fool,” meaning that man is essentially divine, but that Divine has put a mask of ignorance on Himself and pretends individuality. When He is ready to tear off the mask, the individual gets tired of worldly life and seeks peace and everlasting happiness. He then goes to a wise man, accepts him as his Guru, does sadhana as prescribed by him, and by virtue of sadhana and the Guru’s grace, all the vasanas accumulated over lifetimes are washed away and the mind is made pure. Thereupon the mask is torn off and the individual realises “I AM BRAHMAN”. When and in whom He chooses to reveal Himself is a mystery. Papa emphasised the need of absolute surrender to the Divine Will. He would say, “His will is supreme. If we are conscious of this always, there is no struggle in life at all. When we surrender to God’s will, we put all our burdens on Him. He is only too willing to carry everything. Surrender means strength, peace, bliss and wisdom. But when the ego raises its head, all these disappear and man becomes a puny, care-worn creature. God has made man a blissful being.”
“What is meant by surrender? Surrender means to know and feel that all our actions are God’s actions; all our movements are His movements. If we live our life with this attitude, our ego-sense will gradually disappear. The whole universe is the play and form of God’s sakti. When once we know that all are forms of the one Divine, all separateness will be lost in the great realisation.”
Papa acknowledged himself as a visishtadvaitin:
Papa: Ramdas is not a pure advaitin. He believes in the co-existence of dvaita and advaita. The jivanmukta retains a higher subtle individuality; he moves about and acts in the world realising that he and God are one. Ramdas in this body is active in doing things. Whatever he may do, he is at the same time conscious that he is the eternal and all-pervading Reality. So, in that state there is separation and unity simultaneously.
S.: Is there no state when the jivanmukta can lose his individuality in the One and be free of birth?
Papa: That is possible. That is what the jnanis do. They do not believe in the existence of a higher individuality at all. As soon as the lower individuality is dissolved, they cease to exist as separate entities. There cannot be any rebirth for them. Adi Sankaracharya was one of that type.
Having realised his oneness with the Absolute, Papa maintained a subtle individuality to enjoy his relationship with the Divine as a child towards its mother or a servant towards its master. He had great reverence for all saints and sages. Whenever he referred to them, he would say that he was only a child of all saints. He had great respect and reverence for Bhagavan Sri Ramana. Of him he has said, “Sri Ramana Maharshi was in all respects a remarkable saint. After realising the Eternal, he lived in the Eternal. His advent was a veritable blessing on this earth. By his contact thousands were saved from the clutches of doubt and sorrow. He lived what he preached and preached what he lived. He exerted a wonderful influence and created in the hearts of ignorant men and women a consciousness of their inherent Divinity. He awakened the sleeping soul to the awareness of its immortal and all-blissful nature. By his very presence he rid the hearts of people of their base and unbridled passions. The faithful derived the greatest benefit by communion with him.”
As Papa had attained realisation by taking to uninterrupted chanting of the divine name Ram, coupled with contemplation of the attributes of God, he always extolled the virtue of nama-japa in sadhana. Based upon his personal experience, Papa assured all seekers that nama-japa would lead them to the supreme heights of realisation of one’s oneness with the Almighty. On the power of the Divine Name he has this to say: “The Divine Name is pregnant with a great power to transform the world. It can create light where there is darkness, love where there is hate, order where there is chaos, and happiness where there is misery. The Name can change the entire atmosphere of the world from one of bitterness, illwill and fear to that of mutual love, goodwill and trust. For the Name is God Himself. To bring nearer the day of human liberation from the sway of hatred and misery, the way is the recognition of the supremacy of God over all things and keeping the mind in tune with the Universal by the chanting of the Divine Name.
After continuing to live on the roads for many years, his devotees established Anandashram for him in Kanhangad, Kerala in 1931. The ashram worked to improve the living conditions of the local people, and continues to this day to share Swami Ramdas’ vision of Universal Love and Service.
A list of Ramdas’ well known disciples includes Mataji Krishnabai, Swami Satchidananda, Swami Mudrananda and Yogi Ramsuratkumar.Swami Ramdas attained Maha Nirvana in July 1963.

May Beloved Papa, who is everything and beyond everything, continue to bless and lead all to the supreme goal!


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