Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Maharshi's Last Days


Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi moved with all of us, as one amongst us, even though he had attained Self-Realisation even as a lad of 17. Though he never left Arunachala after his first arrival there, the power of his radiance and Light spread across the globe during the half century or more of his stay in Tiruvannamalai. Many earnest Seekers approached him and quite a few found spiritual illumination in his presence. His look was an initiation into Divine Mystery; his teaching was simple, direct and profound. He directed all to seek and find for themselves the source of the Ego from which all thoughts and actions proceed and to merge the Ego at its very source.

At the end of 1948 a small growth, the size of a peanut, was noticed on Bhagavan’s left elbow. It gradually grew in size and became painful when touched. By February 1949 it had grown into a tumour and the doctors from the Ashram attending on him removed it surgically and the wound healed up within about a week. Sometime later, the tumour returned over the operated part. Eminent surgeons from Madras examined and found it to be malignant. The tumour was removed surgically on March 27th 1949. A sample was taken of the growth and subsequent tests revealed it to be a sarcoma, a type of cancer that is a malignant tumour of the connective tissue. The wound now would not heal and the doctors started radium treatment. In the meanwhile Bhagavan’s physical health took a downward turn. There was some suggestion that a complete amputation would resolve the problem. Bhagavan refused it point blank, saying with a smile “There is no need for alarm. The body is itself a disease. Let it have its natural end. Why mutilate it? Simple dressing of the affected part is enough”

All the doctors who attended upon Bhagavan were struck by his superhuman indifference to pain and his total unconcern even during and after the operations. He took everything lightly and retained his sense of humour throughout. As the cancer cells spread to the blood stream, a third operation was performed on 14th August 1949. After the operation, the wound healed but the malignancy reappeared in a more virulent form. During all this time, Bhagavan gave no indication of pain or discomfort. A few hours after the third operation, Bhagavan decided to give Darshan to the many devotees who were waiting anxiously outside the Ashram Dispensary, much against medical advice.
At noon the next day after the operation, as soon as the doctors had left, he returned to the Hall where he always sat , saying that he should not occupy the dispensary to the inconvenience of patients who needed to go there for treatment.

A further operation was performed on 19th December 1949. It was soon realized that surgery did not alleviate Sarcoma but on the contrary it exacerbated it. Allopathic treatment was given up and homeopathy, Ayurveda and Siddha medicines were tried. None succeeded. Suddenly in early April 1950 it became obvious to all that Bhagavan was dying. As the end approached, Bhagavan insisted on giving Darshan even though he was too weak even to sit. People slowly filed past the couch where he sat---some silently adorning moved beyond tears. Others begged him to allow them to take this pain on themselves and ease his suffering. To all the devotees, he gave the special look full of love and compassion. Many devotees have remarked how the last days of Bhagavan were exceptional because of the extraordinary radiance and grace that he displayed. With the decline of the physical resources of the body, it no longer acted as a screen between the devotees and the powerful sun of Bhagavan’s presence.

On the night of 14th April 1950 many realized that the end was near. Outside the Hall, a large gathering of devotees spontaneously sang “Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva” as they waited and watched the punkah swinging back and forth in the tiny room where Bhagavan lay. When Bhagavan heard the hymn “Arunachala Shiva” tears of joy came to his eyes. The Maharshi asked to be propped up in a sitting posture. He assumed a semi-Padmasana posture. His breathing was getting laboured and heavy. The attending doctors put the oxygen to his nose but he brushed it aside. Those around stood in sadness with bated breath. . There was a chorus of “Arunachala Shiva” from outside the room. The gathering was dumbfounded. The atmosphere was tense with fear, emotion and expectation. Very gently the Maharshi seemed to gasp a little and the body became still. He had left the mortal world once for all. Bhagavan had consciously left his body from one breath to the next while his mind was alert till the end. His breath ceased at 8.47 PM [on 14th April 1950]. At that very moment a large light like a star or a comet was seen trailing slowly across the sky above Arunachala.

The French photographer Cartier-Bresson who was in the Sri Ramanashram at that time has related this experience of his: “It is a most astonishing experience” he said –“ I saw a vividly luminous shooting star with luminous tail, unlike any shooting star I had seen before, coming from the South, moving slowly across the sky and reaching the top of Arunachala, disappeared behind it. Because of its singularity we all guessed its import and immediately looked at our watches--it was 8.47-- and then raced towards Ashram only to find that our premonition had been sadly true. The Master had passed into Mahanirvana at that very minute”.

When the news flashed, people came to Tiruvannamalai by bus, by car, by truck, by lorry, by train and other mode of conveyance they could get to attend the Mahasamadhi. The State Government arranged a special train. More than 40,000 people attended the ceremonies. Before laying down his mortal frame, Bhagavan had clearly indicated to Sri K.K.Nambiar, one of his close devotees, in a dream on 2nd April 1950 the exact location where his Samadhi should be erected. In the morning, rituals began with the chanting of Vedaghosha. As according to tradition the physical body would return to the earth the same way it came, naked of all accoutrements, all clothes were removed except the Kaupina. The body was anointed with a series of materials: oil, soap nut powder, turmeric, honey, Panchamritam, lemon, coconut water, sandal paste and finally vibhuthi.
After each substance was applied to the body, it was washed with copious draughts of water. Finally, Vibhuthi was smeared all over the body and flowers were placed around the neck. All along, Vedic Mantras were recited. Next were the offering of Naivedya and the burning of incense and waving of camphor Arathi before the body. Breaking of coconuts completed all the 16 Upacharas [Shodashopacharas as it is called in Sanskrit]. The body was then carried in a palanquin to the pit and placed there. It was filled with more camphor, Bilva leaves, Vibhuthi. Finally the pit was closed with granite slabs.


ARTICLE NO. 446---The Last Days of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi
Created: Friday, May 30, 2008 9:21 PM


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