In regards to the soon to come so called 'shift'.
Bhagavan liked to be treated as an ordinary man, not as a God. He did not want anyone to publicize the fact that he was a jnani.
Although he managed to maintain a façade of ordinariness in his dealings with the outside world, Bhagavan was able to see the spiritual worth of everyone who came to see him. Some people came to live in the ashram because they could get free food there. These people would stay close to the kitchen. Others would attach themselves to visitors and ask them for money. Some residents enjoyed themselves by instigating disputes among ashramites. Bhagavan knew all this. He let everyone follow his own way, but at the same time he managed to keep them all attached to himself. He watched them all carefully and was always looking for an opportunity to change them and put them on the right path.
Bhagavan also liked to pretend that he had no powers. He once told me the following story with great approval.
‘There was once a holy man who was visited by many people. He used to tell them they need not come to see him because he had no special powers. Seeing that his master did not like to be disturbed by visitors, a devotee took upon himself the job of stopping crowds of visitors. He began to spread the news that the holy man had no powers at all. The holy man was very pleased when he heard what was happening. He felt that by saying he had no powers, his disciple was subtly praising him.
Some people desire money and some fame. This holy man desired neither.’
Although Bhagavan preferred to keep his exalted state a secret from the general public, he would occasionally show us glimpses of his power and knowledge. Once, for example, a devotee, who was sitting at a distance from Bhagavan, copying some Sanskrit verses, had a doubt about what he should write. Bhagavan, without even being asked, called over to him and cleared his doubt. All our minds were an open book to Bhagavan, but he rarely showed his knowledge so openly.
I witnessed another strange manifestation of Bhagavan’s power on one of my visits to Skandashram. Two men came from a village and asked Bhagavan to give them vibhuti [sacred ash] with his own hand.
‘Vibhuti is there’, he said, pointing at some. ‘You can help yourself and take some away.’
The men pleaded with Bhagavan, begging him to hand it over with his own hand.
Bhagavan refused, saying, “There is no difference between your hand and mine.’
The visitors were very disappointed and left the ashram without taking any vibhuti.
I followed them and asked, ‘Why did you want the vibhuti from Bhagavan’s own hand? Why were you so insistent?’
One of them told me, ‘I used to have leprosy. When I came to see Bhagavan on a previous occasion, he gave me some vibhuti with his own hand. I applied it to my body and within a day there were no signs of the disease. This is my friend. He also had leprosy. That is why I asked Bhagavan to give him vibhuti with his own hands.’
Bhagavan must have known that he had inadvertently cured the leper of his disease. He probably refused to hand over a second batch of vibhuti because he didn’t want to acquire a reputation as a ‘miracle man’.
I once heard Bhagavan make an interesting remark about jnanis and their powers.
‘Jnanis are of two types – siddhas and suddhas. Siddhas know that they have extraordinary powers. Suddhas also have such powers but they do not even know that they possess them.’
I think that Bhagavan would have put himself in the category of ‘suddha’. Power flowed through him and manifested in many strange and inexplicable ways, but Bhagavan was never aware that he was doing any of the marvelous acts that were attributed to him by his devotees.
It is often said that only a jnani can recognize other jnanis. Bhagavan seemed to concur with this statement when he narrated an incident that had happened to him during his early years at Tiruvannamalai.
I had asked him, ‘When was the first time you took food from a sudra [a member of the lowest caste]?’ and he replied that it had happened on his second day in Tiruvannamalai. This answer triggered off a memory of another early incident. He told me that while he was once sitting on the veranda of a choultry [ guesthouse for pilgrims ] in Tiruvannamalai, some mahatmas [great souls] had come along and thrust some food into his mouth. Bhagavan noticed that there were many sudras sitting nearby, but he could see that they thought that the mahatmas were just ordinary ascetics.
I had two strange but similar experiences with Bhagavan. The first took place on the mountain. Bhagavan had taken me to the top of the hill and shown me the place where the Karttikai jyoti is lit and a few other places. After sunset we climbed down and slept at Seven Springs. While I was sleeping at Bhagavan’s feet, a vision of him appeared to me on all sides. When it had disappeared I told Bhagavan what had happened, but he declined to make any comment on it.
The other incident was both strange and mysterious. I left Skandashram for short period of time after first noticing that Bhagavan was sleeping there, inside the door. When I returned, I saw him sitting outside on a bed. I thought nothing of it until I went inside the ashram and saw that Bhagavan was still still sleeping inside, in the position I had seen him when I left the ashram.
When I told Bhagavan about this later, he smiled and said, ‘Why did you not tell me then itself? I could have caught the thief!’
This was a typical example of Bhagavan’s response to the supernatural. If such events were reported to him, he would either ignore them or pass them off as a joke. This was because he didn’t want any of his devotees to be sidetracked from their main goal of realizing the Self into an unproductive interest in miraculous phenomena.
- The Power of the Presence part I, Rangan, pp.9, 10; 16-18