“The world is a puzzle; no need to make sense out of it." - Socrates

6, జులై 2010, మంగళవారం

Visit to Andhra Valmiki's Ashram

Last month I went to Repalle on some work. On the way back, I remembered that the Ashram established by Andhra Valmiki Sri Vasudasa Swamy should be somewhere nearby. While passing through Angalakuduru village, I stopped and inquired about the Ashram. It was not very difficult to locate the Ashram, because the humble sign-board was visible by the roadside.

When we reached the Ashram, it was dusk. The atmosphere was calm, in tune with Nature. One or two villagers stared at us in silence. The Ashram was unimposing and the building was old. I had seen many flourishing Ashrams where only third rated religion is doled out to the devotees. In contrast to those luxurious Ashrams, this Ashram wore a desolate look. But the spiritual atmosphere of the Ashram caught my attention at once.

I was accompanied by 7 or 8 of staff. We met the head of Ashram, Sri RamanujaDasa Swami. He was talking with someone at that time. So we waited in the verandah for a while. I could hear that they were talking on some mundane matters. I was gazing all around the Ashram and trying to feel the aura of the Ashram with my psyche. There were some inmates,mostly aged women, who were silently engaged in their daily chores. The atmosphere was silent and serene.

The Swami bade good bye to the visitor and called us. We introduced ourselves. I told him that I had been to Ontimitta during my stay at Guntakal.His eyes twinkled on hearing about Ontimitta. Later he said during the conversation that he worked as Head Master in the school at Ontimitta, some 25 years ago, before being ordained as the successor to the then reigning swami.

I could see he was impressed with our curiosity towards Andhra Valmiki. I told him about the 108 poems that poured out through my hand at Ontimitta and recited one or two of them. He was happy to hear them and told me to get them printed for the benefit of devotees. During the conversation, I told him how Andhra Valmiki who died in 1936, appeared at Ontimitta a year ago, to the astonishment of one and all. The swami nodded and said " I am the eye witness to this incident. However, there is a small variation in the narration. I was having my midday meal in the room of his Ashram at Ontimitta.When I heard that an old man is waiting outside, I told my attendant to invite him to the meal. But the old man, apparently very fragile, replied " I have my food always ready in my shoulder bag. I don't want any food. I have come just to see my home. Since you are reciting Ramanama with so much devotion, I just came to see all this." When my attendant reported this to me and went out again, the old man had simply disappeared. There was nobody around".

We were holding our breath in astonishment. The Swami, seeing our rapt attention, narrated another incident that happened in the life of Andhra Valmiki. He said " Ramayana was written in Telugu by Vasudasa Swamy from 1904 to 1908 at Ontimitta. At that time many wonderful incidents happened. Listen to one of them. Vasudasa swamy used to take only a glass of cow's milk as his food for the entire day and used to be immersed in meditating and writing Ramayana for 20 to 22 hours a day, at a stretch. One day when he was in his room on the top of the hill,immersed in writing, he heard the voice of a small girl calling from outside " Annaa. Can I come inside?". Annaa is the word used by youngsters in Rayalaseema, to address elders. He came out and found a girl of 8 or 9 years, wearing golden ornaments, standing at the door. From her appearance, she looked like a goddess. He immediately recognized her as Mother Sita and said to her with folded hands " Mother! It is my fortune that you have come. But where is Father? You should have brought him also along with you." Hearing this, the divine girl simply smiled and vanished into thin air.

At another time, he had the darshan of Lord Sri Rama along with Mother Sita,Hanuman, Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna. When he was deeply immersed in writing Ramayana, he suddenly saw them entering his room. They blessed him and disappeared. He had so many visions like this. He was, no doubt, a blessed soul."

I could only nod my head in agreement, having experienced the grace of Sri Rama at Ontimitta during my visit last year. I was about to narrate the experience I had at Ontimitta to him, but controlled myself seeing that my companions are listening.

The Swami appeared to be in his sixties, well educated, outspoken and open minded. He talked freely with us, for an hour or so , touching many spiritual points. Among them, one particular idea impressed us very much. He said " I worship Sri Rama. This is ingrained in me since my childhood. I like to worship God in the form of Rama. So I cannot worship God in any other form. There is a local temple of Shirdi Sai Baba here. They wanted me to do Puja to Sai Baba. But I could not go. I see only Rama in all vigrahas. Even in a Siva Linga I see only Rama. So I can worship only Rama. But they wanted me to do Sai puja with mantras. I said I cannot do it. I do not have dislike for other deities. I know that they too are manifestations of the same Divine. But my mind is attached to the form of Sri Rama. I call this,Ekeswaropasana."

I was impressed by his words. He was right. At a certain stage in spiritual development, one feels so. Having heard it from my Gurus many a time, I could see the truth in his words. Ekeswaropasana is not what people generally think it to be. It is not worshipping the One God,who is form-less and quality-less, as many ignorant fanatics believe. What the Swami said is the Ekeswaropasana of a devotee. There is another Ekeswaropasana of a Jnani. It is altogether different.

Sri Ramakrishna used to tell a story. Once Hanuman came to Dwaraka to have Darshan of the Lord. So Lord Krishna said to Rukmini " Let us assume the forms of Sri Rama and Sita immediately. These are the forms dear to Hanuman. So we have to appear to him as his Ishta Devatas." The Lord says in the Gita "Ye yadha maam prapadyante taam sthadhaiva bhajamyaham", In whichever form my devotee worships me, I will bless him in the same form".

The Swami asked us to wait a little, till he takes the bath and opens the shrine. But we could not wait. I excused myself and took leave of him with a promise that I will pay a visit to the Ashram very soon.

I, along with my companions, left the Ashram in an elevated mood.