The Path of Total Surrender
this interview Sri K. Anil Kumar, a faculty member of Sri Sathya
Sai Institute of Higher Learning, tells Dr. G. Venkataraman,
former Vice Chancellor of the Institute, some interesting and
illuminating incidents from the life of two old and ardent
devotees of Bhagavan Baba - Sri Ramabrahmam and Sri Kamavadhani.
Both of them followed the path of total surrender and earned
Bhagavan's grace and proximity.
G.V. I would like you to
speak about some old timers because they played a vital role in
shaping the things of what we now take for granted. They were the
pioneers. It is appropriate that we remember those pioneers. One
of them whose name I heard you mention often is Sri Ramabrahmam.
So, I would like you to tell us a little bit about Sri Ramabrahmam
starting with when you first came to know him.
A.K. Sri K. Ramabrahmam belonged to Krishna district of
Andhra Pradesh. Well, I knew him for 30 years, and I moved with
him intimately ever since I took charge as the Principal of the
Brindavan Campus, Bangalore in the year 1989. He was the caretaker
then and used to visit me almost everyday. I was staying alone in
the bungalow given to me at that time as my wife did not join me
and my children were still studying. He used to come to me and
give a pep talk since initially I did not know how to conduct
myself with Swami. He served as the most faithful worker of Sai, a
devotee par excellence.
G.V. Incidentally, when did Sri Ramabrahmam first come to
A.K. He said, he stayed with Swami for 30 long years.
G.V. So, that is what he told
you in 1989; that means, more or less from 1959.
A.K. He stayed in Bangalore.
G.V. So, he was a Bangalore man, not Puttaparthi man.
A.K. It was all a forest in
those days and there were no buildings.
G.V. Swami used to spend a
lot of time at Brindavan those days.
A.K. Except the central
old building, there was no other building whatsoever. There was
only Swami's building in the centre. No lights as we find today.
They moved in the midst of snakes. There are many, many things to
learn from the late Sri Ramabrahmam. He never considered his job
of caretaker of Brindavan as a means to earn his livelihood. He
told me, "Never consider that this is your job, never consider
that the college is a place where you work. Consider that these
things belong to you. Just as you take care of your property, you
should take care of Swami's college, hostel. Take care of the
students, as you would take care of your own children." Sri
Ramabrahmam had that spirit in him "-' throughout. But the
greatest thing about him was that he would never
Swami for anything. He said, "Never ask
any personal favour from Bhagavan. He knows everything. When you
do His work, He will do your work." What a great statement it is!
Sri Ramabrahmam had three sons; they used to visit their parents
at Brindavan. Whenever the children came, they stayed outside with
the devotees. He never told Swami that his son had come. But Swami
always told him, "Ramabrahmam, your first son has come, give him
accommodation. Ramabrahmam, your second son is there, give him
accommodation." Sri Ramabrahmam told me that we should never ask
any favour from S.wami. He will take care of us. We should do our
work. Another thing he told was also a great statement. I asked,
"How is that you are very serious in front of Bhagavan? I have
never seen you smiling or cutting a joke. You stand like a
military man with folded hands." He said, "Look here, I don't see
Swami as you see Him. I observe three parallel lines of Vibhuti on
His forehead. That makes me feel that I am in front of God. I
cannot smile, I cannot take Him in an easy way. So, I always
maintain that spirit."
Then another point he said, "If you were to continue staying with
Swami, follow His instructions scrupulously, no margin
whatsoever." He gave an illustration from his own life. Once Swami
told him, "Why does your wife keep shouting so much? I hear her
voice. The people in the Mandir also hear her voice." The very
next day, he dropped her back home
Krishna district, 17
hours drive from Bangalore. Then he reported to Swami, "Swami, she
is no longer here. You are free from her disturbing voice." Then
after a week, Swami asked, "When is she coming, Ramabrahmam?" "I
don't know, Swami", replied Sri Ramabrahmam. Again after a few
days Swami asked, "When is she coming, Ramabrahmam?" "I don't
know, Swami." This divine romance continued for a long time.
Finally, Bhagavan became stern and said, "Ramabrahmam, I will send
you out if you don't bring your wife." So, he had to go and bring
his wife. He said, "There was a choice between Bhagavan and
wife, I chose Bhagavan and not my wife."
G.V. Is it not very similar
to what Swami often says about great devotees like Prahlada, Mira,
Mahabali, so on and so forth? Even in this Kali Age, there are
people like Sri Ramabrahmam. I have not come across examples of a
choice between wife and God. This is a classic example.
A.K. He also said, "We have
to follow Swami carefully. We cannot take anything for granted."
He gave an instance. Bhagavan asked him to wear His own ochre
robe. Sri Ramabrahmam was a well-built man, a hefty personality.
He said, "Swami, my head won't fit into Your robe. How do You
expect me to wear it?" Swami said, "No, nothing doing. You have to
wear it." With great difficulty, he could push his head into the
robe. He became breathless and was almost in tears. As he started
wearing, the robe started expanding. Finally, it was a correct fit
to his size. Sri Ramabrahmam said, "When He tells you to do
something, He sees to it that you are able to do the task."
G.V. Was it to give Sri Ramabrahmam a taste of His
A.K. That's what he always
told. Another example. Once Swami called, "Ramabrahmam, come
here." He was having a thermos flask in his hand. So, he thought
it would be improper to go with the flask. He went into the
kitchen, kept the flask, climbed up the steps and went to Swami.
Swami said, "I called you a few minutes ago. Better you go back."
Once a big borewell was being dug in
Brindavan. Seva Dal volunteers were at work. In spite of 20 - 30
feet depth, they could not get water. Sri Ramabrahmam happened to
pass that way. Seva Dal members said, "Sir, why don't you also
take a crowbar and help us in digging the well? Perhaps by the
hands of a devotee like you, we may get water. Our efforts are in
vain. You are the grand old man of Brindavan. Come on, take this
crowbar and render some service." He was 70 years old at that
time. He forgot his age, took the crowbar and started digging.
Water sprang up immediately. But while returning, he slipped and
fell on the ground. His pant and shirt became dirty. It was time
for him to report to Bhagavan. Immediately he went, changed his
dress, and reported to Bhagavan. Bhagavan said, "When you fell
down there, I immediately came to your rescue. But some months
back, when I called you, you went into the kitchen and took some
time to come. You delayed in attending to My work, whereas I did
not delay; I immediately rushed to save you. This you must learn."
He often used to tell the devotees, "This is my experience, just
as we expect Bhagavan to come to our rescue immediately, we should
also do His work without any delay."
Sri Ramabrahmam narrated another
experience. One day, Swami said suddenly, "Ramabrahmam, your
second son has died. Don't tell your wife. She will be shocked.
Both of you go to your native place. Finish off all that you are
supposed to do and return." When they reached their native place,
his wife saw the dead body of her second son. All the 17 hours,
this man remained tight-lipped without divulging anything
whatsoever since Swami had told him not to tell her. There the
wife felt very bad that even after having come to know he did not
tell her. He replied, "I would have revealed everything, but Swami
instructed me not to tell anything because you had to travel for
17 hours. As a mother, you would not have been able to bear it."
They finished the final rites and returned to Brindavan. His wife
started crying, "Oh God! We lost our son." Swami said, "Why do you
cry? He is with Me." "Swami, is he with You?" She asked. Swami
replied, "Yes, he is with Me." Swami asked, "Do you want to see
your son?" Then Bhagavan asked the couple to go into the interview
They saw with their own eyes their
second son sitting there, who had already been cremated. When
Swami says, he is with Me, he is really there.
Apparently, this is not the first such
experience. Many others had this
kind of experience. I was talking to the Raja of Venkatagiri, the
present younger Raja. When Swami first went to Venkatagiri, after
keeping the family waiting for several years, the first thing he
(the elder Raja, now no more) asked was, "I want to see my mother
who is no more." Swami said, "You want to see your mother,
grandmother!" Swami looked at the wall and called out her name.
She stepped out from the wall. The Raja touched her. She was in
flesh and blood; he also talked to her.
A.K. Sri Ramabrahmam gave another instance. It was an
occasion wherein he had to attend his granddaughter's wedding. He
gave an invitation to Bhagavan personally. "Swami said, "You go."
He was expecting that Bhagavan would tell him to go on 14th since
his granddaughter's wedding was on 15th. But Swami did not say
anything. After the marriage was over, Swami started enquiring,
"Ramabrahmam, why did you not go?" Then he said, "Bhagavan, I take
it positively. I feel that You did not want me to attend. So, I
kept quiet without asking You." Bhagavan said, "Good boy, this is
the sign of a devotee." He was not for any relationships nor for
any business. Before coming to Bhagavan, he was a very rich man,
involved in tobacco business. He did not have time even to count
G.V. And he was working here
as caretaker. How did he happen to come to Swami?
As ill-luck would have it, he lost all his
money. It was then that he came to Swami
His sons told that they were ever
grateful to Swami for He took care of their parents tor forty long
years. They said, "Our parents never came to stay with us. On the
other hand, we were their guests; they were never our guests."
I want to tell you one more
incident. It was the time when Sri B.D. Jatti was the Vice
President of India. He was the one who inaugurated the hostel
building. He was an ardent devotee of Bhagavan. It was Indo-Pak
war time. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, sent
Sri B.D. Jatti all the way to seek Bhagavan's blessings. He came
by a special flight and went straight to Brindavan.
It was 6 o' clock in the evening. Bhagavan had already retired for
the day. As Sri Jatti was the Vice President of India then, he
came along with a big convoy of cabinet ministers, local
authorities and the Chief Minister of Karnataka. In their
presence, Sri B.D. Jatti pleaded with Sri Ramabrahmam, "I have to
report to the Prime Minister before sunrise. Please inform Swami
that I am waiting for Him here. I must immediately go." Sri
Ramabrahmam said, "I am sorry, sir. You can take my head. But you
can never force me to knock the door of Bhagavan and request Him
to talk to you. Impossible! Once Bhagavan retires, nobody dares to
knock the door. I am sorry. If you want, you can
have my head. That's all." Then Sri B.D. Jatti with folded hands
said, "Okay, sir, what am I to do now?"
G.V. The Vice President of India said so?
A.K. "I suggest to you only one thing, sir. Sit here, squat
on the floor and chant Sai Ram. You do it and Swami will take
care", said Sri Ramabrahmam. Sri B.D. Jatti along with other
cabinet ministers sat there repeating Sai Ram. What happened?
After half an hour, Sri Ramabrahmam heard a knock from Swami's
room. Swami opened the door and said, "Ramabrahmam, I am coming.
Jatti is waiting for Me. Tell Jatti that I am coming." Swami came
down, spoke to Sri Jatti who conveyed to Swami what he had been
asked to tell. Sri Ramabrahmam said, "Had I not followed Swami's
instructions, Sri Jatti would have been in trouble, and I would
also have been in trouble. It would have been a very bad
experience for me. Moreover, it was revealed to all that Swami
knew everything - the urgency of the situation, the need to talk,
when, where and how. None can force Bhagavan. Everybody has to
wait for Bhagavan." That's what Sri Ramabrahmam used to tell me.
G.V. You have seen Sri
Ramabrahmam from close quarters and interacted with him
intimately. You are seeing so many other people also and are
interacting with some of them closely. Do you feel that the kind
of loyal devotees that Bhagavan had those days are scarce these
days or there are still people with steadfast one-pointedness? Do
you feel the people now are different because of the change in
environment and climate or do you feel that devotees are devotees
A.K. There is a decline in
standards in every walk of life. So, naturally there is a decline
in standards in this field also.
G.V. Is it because they don't have these experiences or
something else is the reason?
A.K. Old devotees had intense
love for Bhagavan. For them, love for Bhagavan was first. Today it
is not so. My intention, my motive, my desire first, devotion
next. But in their case, devotion first, other things next. So,
priorities are different.
G.V. Swami also talks about
the Vedic scholar Sri Kamavadhani who renounced everything and
refused to go back home. It is very nice to hear about another
devotee of the same stature. Do you know anything about Sri
A.K. Excepting what I have
heard from Bhagavan, I do not know much.
G.V. Okay, tell us about
A.K. Bhagavan said a few
things about Sri Kamavadhani.
G.V. You must have seen him.
A.K. I saw him.
G.V. Have you talked to him.
A.K. Yes. Bhagavan said a few
things about him. He was a great scholar in Vedic literature. I
can say, none could equal him in this field. He was of that
He was well-versed in all the Vedas,
a most respected person in the State of Andhra Pradesh,
particularly East Godavari, and a very rich man. But he said
goodbye to his family, leaving all the property, children and
grandchildren, and settled here at Prasanthi Nilayam.
G.V. That was long ago.
A.K. It was he who started teaching Vedic Mantras to our
students here. There was a Veda Pathashala (school) in those days.
He gave training to the students. He was incharge of all Dasara
celebrations, and no surprise, one could easily make out Sri
Kamavadhani's voice during Dasara celebrations as against the
voice of the rest. There might be a hundred people, yet Sri
Kamavadhani's voice was distinct, golden voice. The Mantras have
to be chanted like that. He was a scholar and a great believer.
Having come here, he never went back. But it so happened that
Bhagavan wanted him to follow Him during His trip to East
Godavari. Sri Kamavadhani belonged to East Godavari and the very
village which he belonged to was also included in Bhagavan's
programme. That is how Bhagavan plans. Bhagavan thought, "This man
has not gone to his village, let him go to his people and spend
some time." Bhagavan took him along with Him straight to his
house. Everybody received them and Swami gave a nice talk also
there. At the end of it, the children, grandchildren came to Sri
Kamavadhani and said, "You have come after a long time, spend a
couple of days with us and then join Bhagavan." This man said,
"Nothing doing, I am leaving right now. I am following Bhagavan in
His trip to East Godavari district. I am not going to stay here."
Then he followed Bhagavan.
G.V. And what did Swami say?
A.K. Swami was just watching
the drama and appreciated the devotion of Sri Kamavadhani. Having
gone all the way to his house, Sri Kamavadhani had no regrets that
he did not stay for more than a day or so, even less than that.
G.V. I heard he lived for one
A.K. Yes, he was over hundred at the time of his death.
Everyday, he used to report to Swami, both in the morning and
evening, and Swami would grant him Padanamaskar. One day, Swami
told him, "Go home, you don't have to see Me in the afternoon." He
went home, did Puja, had his food and breathed his last. That is
why Bhagavan didn't want him to come again. That too happened on
the day he performed Sita Rama Kalyanam in the Mandir. Having
performed the Divine wedding in accordance with Vedic injunctions,
having had a sumptuous lunch, sitting comfortably, he left his
G.V. Well, I think, I can go on and on. But you must be
tired. Let us stop at this point.
Radio Sai Global
Harmony Prasanthi Nilayam
Source: Sanathana Sarathi, July 2004 Page 198-203