Conquering a Kingdom
In the early 1900s, when the Indian sage Ramana Maharshi lived in the Virupaksha Cave on the Arunachala Hill, his companions were monkeys, dogs, snakes and other animals. Often the restless monkeys would sit still, as if in a trance, under the large tree in front of the cave. Once, one of the monkeys started moving and was looking restless. Ramana asked him, “What kingdom do you have to conquer?” The monkey again became still.
One morning a visitor asked Ramana Maharshi about motiveless action. Ramana did not reply. After a little while he left the hall and walked up the Arunachala Hill, behind the hermitage where he lived. A few people followed him. On the path lay a long thorny stick. Ramana picked it up and sat down on a boulder and began to leisurely work on the bark. The thorns were cut off, the knots were made smooth, and the stick was polished with a rough leaf. The whole process took about six hours. When he was finished everyone marveled at the fine transformation from a spiky branch to a beautiful stick.
As the group walked back to the hermitage a shepherd boy suddenly appeared. He had lost his walking stick and didn’t know what to do. Ramana immediately handed the boy the new stick he had worked on all day, and then began walking back to the hermitage. Later on, the morning visitor noted that his question had been answered by Ramana’s action.
The True Biography
In the spring of 1979, my wife and I were working on a project at Sri Ramanasramam in South India. During this time, we would spend several hours each week with Kunju Swami, a very close devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Kunju Swami had a remarkable memory and could accurately recall the smallest details that took place during the thirty years he lived in close association with Ramana Maharshi. During one of our many sessions, as we sat at the base of the Arunachala Hill watching the sunset, he related a story that I will never forget.
Hearing this story brought me to one of those moments when the teaching hits home in a truly potent manner. Often, when I find myself looking upon an event as having a real basis, I remember the question Maharshi asked Kunju Swami at the end of this story.
There was a man from the state of Kerala who had written a biography of Sri Ramana Maharshi in Malayalam (that state’s regional language). Before sending the manuscript to press he decided to visit the Ashram and have it read aloud before Bhagavan.
Because Kunju Swami was born in Kerala and spoke fluent Malayalam, Bhagavan asked him to read the manuscript aloud and also to look after the author’s needs during his visit. As Kunju Swami began reading, he could not believe what was written. The book stated that Maharshi was married and was the father of several children, and that one day, while living in the South Indian town of Madurai, he closed his eyes and was somehow magically transported to the Arunachala Hill. The book went on like this, containing many fictional accounts.
After the reading took place, the author had to leave quickly in order to catch a train back home. Maharshi was very gracious to him and asked Kunju Swami to be sure he had something to eat before leaving, and see to it that he reached the train station on time.
After seeing off the visitor, Kunju Swami hurried back to the Ashram, anxious to hear what Bhagavan thought of this highly exaggerated manuscript, which was about to go to press. Back at the Old Hall, he found Ramana Maharshi quietly attending to some small chore, completely unconcerned about anything else. Kunju Swami waited as patiently as he could, wondering if Maharshi might raise the subject. But he just quietly chatted with those present and sat silently.
Finally, Kunju Swami could not contain himself any longer and asked: “Bhagavan, how could you allow this book to get printed. It is full of inaccuracies. In fact, most of it is untrue.” Bhagavan looked at Kunju Swami for a moment then replied: “Oh, I see. You mean only this is untrue, and everything else is true?” The book was never printed!