What is Swami (Papa) Ramdas’ uniqueness amid Hindu spiritual masters?
Papa Ramadas was a saint, a God realized/ Self realized master, whose life stood as a standing example of the efficacy of chanting Rama Mantra as a sure means of realization. He was a saint who saw his beloved Ram inside him as well as in every living being outside. He lived an exemplary life of total surrender to his Ram and demonstrated to the world that a life of cent percent renunciation is possible and when such a surrender comes, the Lord takes care of everything for the well being of his beloved devotee.
Papa Ramdas lived a life of a wandering monk carrying no money or possessions with him during his early spiritual life and traveled the length and breadth of India. Later he established his Math Anandashramam at Kanhankad, (Kasargod district) in north Kerala.
He had thousands of followers who came to him for spiritual guidance. He blessed them with Rama Mantra :” Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram“. He recommended a sadhana practice of Nama (Chanting of the name of Lord Rama), dhyana (meditation) and Seva (selfless service for the well being of others) to his followers as the effective means of attaining spiritual progress and God realization in life.
Birth and early years
Vittal Rao (later Swami Papa Ramadas) was born on the auspicious day of Hanumat Jayanti (the birthday of Lord Hanuman) on April 10th 1884 as the sixth son of the Saraswath Brahmin couple Sri Balakrishna Rao and Lalitha Bai, at Hosdurg in Kasargod district of Kerala. He had 9 brothers and three sisters. His parents led a simple life, full of devotion to God and dedication to austerities.
Vittal Rao had his primary education in Hosdurg and went to Mangalore and then to Udupi for higher education. Vittal Rao was a happy go lucky boy, enjoying games and swiftly climbing trees; though intelligent and quick to grasp things, he had no taste in formal education and he failed in his matriculation. As a boy, he was a free thinker, not conforming to mimicking the worldly; he loved simplicity and was pure in heart. He was quite humorous too. He learned English well. He also read bible during his high school days.
After failing in matriculation exams at Christian High School, Udupi, , he returned to Hosdurg and started showing interest in theatre and arts. He went to The School of Arts in Chennai to formally learn painting and screen printing. He then went to Mumbai to learn textile manufacturing at Victoria Jubilee Institute. He did not develop much of interest in it. He developed lots of interest in reading variety of books including English literature and was influenced by books on the life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Rama Tirtha. He read Bhagavad Gita and felt highly influenced by it. After finishing the diploma course of three years duration successfully in textile manufacturing, he started looking for jobs. After chequered start in making a career for life, he got a job Spinning Master in Gulbarga for a brief period.
At the age of twenty five, he was married to Rukma Bai. Because of high instability in his career, Vittal Rao was without job many times and it affected his family life too. Five years after marriage, Rukma Bai gave birth to a female child named Ramabai.
Vittal Rao worked as a Spinning Master in several mills at places like Coimbatore, Ahmadabad, Cuttack etc. He was disturbed by seeing the exploitation of workmen by higher management and got disillusioned with his job. He started his own business of dying clothes in Mangalore. But because of his generosity, compassionate nature and lack of calculative shrewdness, he failed to be a successful businessman and soon accumulated quite a loss. He had accumulated debts to be cleared; he was stressed out and he lead a life of worries, sorrows and desperation. Almost an year passed in this way.
In this process, he developed a deep longing for escape from the worldly life, which had no more attraction for him. He started praying to his beloved God Rama earnestly. He started chanting Lord Rama’s name and spent his time in prayer and meditation.
Thus Vittal Rao was turning inwards, developing discrimination and dispassion and longing for a spiritually dedicated life. Gradually he started gaining mental peace. He turned to simple living and started wearing khaddar; he lost interest in eating and simplified his intake to bananas and boiled potatoes, eating just one time only in a day. He relinquished cushioned bed and slept in mat. He reduced his sleep and spent the night in the contemplation of Lord Ram.
It was at this time that divine grace started working on him. A compassionate friend volunteered to become his business partner and paid back all of his the loans!
In the meanwhile, Vittal Rao’s father Balakrishna Rao, having lost his wife, opted to spend his older years dedicated to devotion to God; he went to stay with his eldest son at Kasargod. One day, as he was visiting the famous Udupi Krishna Temple, he got attracted by the radiating divinity of a sanyasi sitting in the shade of a tree in the marketplace. He went and surrendered at his feet. The sanyasi initiated Balakrishna Rao with the mantra “Sri Ram Jaya Ram Jaya Jaya Ram“. Sri Rao was overjoyed by the unexpected divine grace and felt very blessed.
Getting Mantra Diksha
Since Balakrishna Rao knew of his son Vittal’s ardent yearning for a spiritually oriented life, he came to Mangalore to meet his son, with his heart full of compassion; he told Vittal Rao about the mantra he had received from the sanyasi and without delay, he imparted the mantra to his son and blessed him.
And that was the turning point in the life of Vittal Rao. It paved the way for Vittal Rao to blossom into Swami Ramdas sooner.
The moment Ramdas received the mantra, he felt enthralled. He felt he was now a bird released from the cage. He fell at the feet of his father and from that day, he treated him as his beloved guru, who, out of utmost compassion, came to give him the key to his liberation.
From that day onward, Vittal Rao immersed himself in chanting the Rama Mantra day and night. He added “Om” to the Rama mantra that his father gave. Rather, the mantra virtually caught hold of Vittal! The more he chanted the mantra, the more Vittal got immersed in the bliss of contemplation of his beloved lord Rama. Food and sleep became matters of irrelevance to him.
He started seriously thinking of leaving behind the worldly life altogether and take up Sanyas. He fervently prayed to Lord Rama for His guidance. On that day, as he was reading books like The Light of Asia (Buddha’s life), New Testament and Bhagavad Gita, whatever pages he opened and read contained sentences glorifying a life of renunciation. Vittal Rao took this as the answer from Lord Ram for his prayers. He wrote a letter to his friend who helped him out of his financial difficulty informing of his decision. He also wrote another letter to his wife.
The following is the translation of the letter written by Vittal Rao to his wife before he left his home for good. Notice how he addresses his wife in this letter:
To Srimati Rukmabai, Mangalore
From now onward, you will be my sister. I have surrendered myself totally at the feet of Sri Ram. He has redeemed me from my erstwhile life. Taking his holy name on my lips, I am going out into this vast world as a beggar. You know that I have no other desire in this life except striving for receiving His grace and love. I am dedicating the rest of my life for this lofty ideal. I am ready to face any amount of hardship for this purpose.
We are not going to meet as husband and wife hereafter. Lead your life dedicated to God and truth and also ensure that Rame (Ramabai) too follows it.
Never give up the spinning wheel. It will give you peace and bliss. Let Rame too do it.
Sriram’s blessings on you and Rame – He protects you both.
Taking two dhotis dyed in saffron with him along with a cash of about 25 Rupees and a couple of books mentioned above, he left at 5 AM on the next day from Mangalore and took a train that went up to Erode. Thus began his life of renunciation from family bonds, in December 1922, at his age of 38.
Travelling Mendicant Ramdas – ‘In Quest of God’
Vittal Rao then travelled to Srirangam in Tamil Nadu. He took bath in Kaveri river and took up Sanyas by wearing the ochre clothes, leaving his old clothes to the flowing waters of the Kaveri. He prayed to Lord Ram to protect him from the threats of leading a life of a renunciate. He took three vows: 1) To dedicate the rest of his life to the contemplation of Rama and in service of Rama. 2) To consider every woman as his mother and 3) To carry on with his physical needs by taking food only through begging or when someone offers it voluntarily.
Thus Vittal Rao, having opted to become a lifelong servant of his Lord Ram, took up the name Ramdas.
He donated some money to fellow mendicants. He decided to leave his future course of movement and actions totally to the prompting of Lord Ram or to whatever way the Lord lead him by circumstances, without much of a choice of his own.
And from then onwards, the wondrous ways of the Lord’s divine play started unfolding in his life. An enthralling life of a wandering monk began; Ramdas was always assisted, taken care of and lead by some stray sadhu or other who joined with him voluntarily (different persons at different journeys). Ramdas opted to call such a person as Sadhu Ram. According to him, it was verily Lord Ram who came with him to take care of him.
Ramdas travelled to Rameswaram, Madurai, Chidambaram, Thirupapuliyur, Puducherry and then to Thiruvannamalai. At times he travelled in train without tickets and had to face the wrath from the Ticket Checkers and Police. But through his radiating divinity and utter humility, he won the hearts of even the toughest officers and underwent no punishment. Rather they turned around and extended help to him to proceed with his travels!
Meeting Ramana Maharshi and Having the Universal Vision of Lord Ram
Along with a sadhu Ram accompanying him, Ramdas went to the meet Bhagwan Ramana Maharshi, who was staying in a humble hut at the foothills of Arunachala (Thiruvannamalai). Ramadas surrendered at the holy feet of the saint and made this prayer: “Maharaj, here stands before Thee a humble slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to Thee is to give him thy blessing.”
The Maharshi, turning his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas, and looking intently for a few minutes into his eyes as though he was pouring into Ramdas his blessing, then nodded his head to indicating that he had blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas, his whole body quivering like a leaf in the breeze.
After this darshan, Ramdas wanted to stay up in the in the Arunachala hill in a cave all alone, engaged in his japa and dhyana uninterrupted. Sadhu Ram made arrangements for it. He spent one month ther, deeply engaging in his sadhana and enjoying a divine bliss of Rama consciousness all the time. Every day, he went down to the town to beg some rice; he cooked it and ate it once a day and engaged rest of the day in his deep contemplation.
And one day, as Ramdas came out of the cave, got the exhilarating divine experience of seeing everything around him verily the manifestations of Rama and nothing else. Ramdas described his experience thus:
Once, during the day, when he was lost in the madness of Ram’s meditation, he came out of the cave and found a man standing a little away from the mouth of the cave. Ramdas felt an irresistible attraction towards this friend because it was due to the perception of Ram in him. “O Ram, You have come, you have come!” Unconsciously, he ran up to him and locked him up in a fast embrace. This action of Ramdas thoroughly frightened the friend who thought that it was a mad man who was behaving in this manner and so was afraid of harm from him. It was true that he was mad of Ram, a harmless madness that the visitor realised later. At times, he would feel driven to clasp in his arms the very trees and plants growing in the vicinity of the cave. Ram was attracting him from all directions. Oh, the mad and loving attraction of Ram! O Ram, Thou art Love, Light and Bliss!
Travelling to North India
After this experience, Ramdas continued his journey northwards. He went to Tirupati, Puri, Kolkata and Dakshineswar. He visited Dakshineswar Kali temple, the holy place where Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had lived.
A stranger voluntarily took care of his needs and also led him to the room where Sri Ramakrishna lived; Ramadas felt that the whole room was surcharged with divine vibrations. A divine bliss ran in his nerves wave by wave. Unconsciously, he started rolling over the floor of the room as if to charge him further with the dust of the room that had been purified with the holy feet of Sri Ramakrishna. The visitor was taken aback by the inexplicable divine madness and joy with which Ramadas was rolling on the floor for about half an hour.
Next he visited Tarakanath, Kashi and then reached Jhansi. There he met a businessman by name Mahadeva Prasad; the Moment Sri Prasad saw Ramdas, he was possessed by a great sense of devotion and surrender to the wandering saint. He forced Ramdas to stay with him and ensured that Ramdas’ physical being is taken care of and some health is restored, which had been battered by total discard due to cold, extreme physical strains, lack of nutrition etc.
Ramdas lived in Jhansi for more than a month. He started giving lectures on Bhagavad Gita and other scriptures to small group of devotees who gathered around him and revered him as their guru. Another devotee by name Ramkinkar became quite close to him.
Ramdas left Jhansi for travelling to holy places in Himalayas in the company of Ramkinkar. He visited Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All those places were covered by walk. The beauty of Himalayan mountains capped with snow, the holy rivers, the flora and fauna frequently brought Ramdas to rapture and he felt the presence of his Lord Ram everywhere. Ramdas, surcharged with energy like a Hanuman, climbed huge hills surrounding the holy places and took bath in ice cold waters.
After visiting Himalayas, he travelled to Mathura, Gokul and Vrindavan, Raipur, Ajmir, Junagadh, Dwaraka etc and came to Mumbai. He stayed with his erstwhile brother Ramakrishna Rao there. He continued his journey to Panchavati, Trimbakeshwar, Pandharpur, Bijapur and arrived at Hubli, to meet Sri Siddharoodha Swamy at the behest of his brother.
He stayed in the Mutt of Siddharoodha Swamy and enjoyed the company of the revered saint for a week.
By this time, the news of his arrival at Hubli reached his erstwhile family at Mangalore. His erstwhile wife along with the daughter came to meet him at Hubli. She prayed to Siddharudha Swami to impress Ramdas to return to Mangalore with her. As instructed by the saint, Ramdas accompanied her back to Mangalore. However he made clear to her that his return to grihasthashram (worldly life) was unthinkable as his life had been possessed by Rama irrevocably.
He stayed with his eartwhile brother Sitarama Rao and also met his father who was his guru too.
Thus the first phase of Ramdas’ spiritual life of intense period of Rama Consciousness in which Ramdas lived the life of a wandering monk for a period of about one year, came to an end.
Ramdas explains his temperament and state of being during this one year period as below:
During this period, Ramdas’ mind was totally in peace and his life was one of total surrender. The world was dreamlike to him and was virtually non existent. He travelled from one place to another like a machine. Lord Rama was obviously taking care of him with love and protection. In his exclusive world, only Ram and Ramdas were existent. There was unequivocal bliss in that state. Ramdas was free from dualities — pain and pleasure, heat and cold, good and bad. His mind was always at peace, rest and silence; it was sort of empty too.
At times, he would suddenly slip to the external world with all its associated dualities, but Ramdas would be attentive enough to notice it and withdraw his mind inward again.
Ramdas disliked crowd. He always tried to escape to places of loneliness. Ramdas was totally free from any fear — fear of any danger or even death. He had the strongest conviction that he was in the protection of his Lord.
Rama’s name was constantly on his lips. He kept chanting it mechanically at all times. North Indian acquaintances that became close to him felt that he was totally free from any attachment.
Ramdas was virtually like a child; he was extremely humble and obedient towards others. He was taken care of by others as if he was a child and they assisted him in taking bath, dressing up, eating and so on.
He was never attracted or distracted by anything happening in the world. Both his mind and intellect had stopped working. There was no more the false sense of “I” in him. It was Rama who occupied that space. Ramdas spoke very little in this period.
He was simply like a dry leaf, swept this way and that way by the wind.”
Austere Life at Pandava Cave
From his brother’s house, Ramdas then shifted his residence to the Pancha Pandava Cave at Kadri Hills, two miles away from Mangalore. He stayed alone with bare minimum needs and totally immersed himself in meditation and contemplation of Ram there, for a period of about three months. He ate just fruits and drank milk twice a day. His day would start at 3 AM and after ablutions, he would sit chanting japa and soon lose himself in deep meditation for hours at stretch with little external consciousness. He undertook vow of silence for a week.
It was the second phase of his spiritual quest. During this period of sadhana, Ramadas had visions of inner light; he delved deeper into his Self, transcending name, form, thought and intellect. He could experience the purity, silence and the bliss of his Self inside. Gradually, this state became permanent that there was no longer any fall of the mind into the external world.
Next he could feel that the Self (Atman) that was an internal experience of bliss and light was gradually expanding to cover the external world too. His Self bloomed like a flower and in its light, the whole external world was embraced by pure love and light. This bliss that he experienced this way was much more powerful. Even though he had bouts of this experience earlier too, during his days of austerities in Pandava Caves, it became a permanent nature of him. Ramdas became one with Ram. Ramdas realized that he had now got transformed into a state brimming with energy, love and bliss. The fruit was totally ripe now. He was now fully ready to share that sweet bliss to all those who came into contact with him.
People started coming in large numbers to have his darshan at the cave. Ramdas interacted freely with them and shared his wonderful experiences with them. He spoke on the glory of God and His infinite compassion. He attracted people from all religions. He could instantly communicate with Muslims and Christians too and spoke with them as though he was verily one among them. His radiating divinity broke all boundaries.
During his stay in the caves, Ramdas wrote all the thrilling experiences of his previous one year journey in the book “In Quest of God” which got published first in the year 1925.
During this period at Pancha Pandava Caves, Ramadas served with love a group of beggars suffering under acute leprosy for a brief period.
Spreading his message of Love and bliss – The second round of travelling
Ramdas’ spiritual life now entered into the third phase. Ramdas decided to take up the life of a travelling mendicant once again. But this time, he was on a different mould. He was bent upon sharing his divine bliss to all those seekers who, attracted by his divine radiance, mobbed him wherever he went. Ramdas visited Kasargod and Kollur. Through the association with a Yogi, he learned and practiced Pranayama. He had mixed experiences — positive and negative through this practice. After practicing it intensely for some during his stay at Kudlu (near Kasargod) and grasping its efficacy, he discontinued this practice.
“At the feet of God“
During his lonely stay at Kudlu, Ramdas got an inner urge to outpour his spiritual bliss through writing: He wrote poems, prayers and articles which later in 1928 got published in the form of a book ‘At the feet of God‘.
Ramdas returned to Kadri Hills and stayed there again for about two months. This time, a young man by name Madhav (later Ramas called him Ram Charan Das) started staying with Ramdas and serving him with love and devotion.
Continuing journey northward
Ramdas began his next round of journey towards north by walk and Ram Charan Das joined him, despite Ramdas’ advising him against it.
Ramdas visited Gokaran, Shetphal and Pandharpur. Ramdas now insisted Ram Charan Das to undertake his own journey independently in order to personally taste the bliss of Lord Ram and understand how His love always protected a hapless devotee. Thus they parted ways.
Ramdas travelled alone to Bijapur, Hubli, Bangalore and then went Mangalore and Ernakulam. Ramdas was taken care of very well by so many people in all the places he visited. People vied with each other to feed him and take spiritual advice from him. Unlike the past, Ramdas was quite open to talk freely with people on matters of God and spirituality and was giving lectures and invited talks to amidst gathering of devout people.
He again travelled northward to Goa, Mumbai, Wadhwan, Surat and many other places in between. In Wadhwan, Ram Charan Das joined him. Later, again leaving Das to chart his own course, Ramdas left for Jhansi. There his old acquaintances who had become his devotees — Mahadev Prasad and Ramkinkar were emotionally overwhelmed to see him again and happily took care of him. Ramdas conducted satsang amid his several Jhansi devotees.
He then went to Chitrakoot, Bhanda and Gokar Parvat. He travelled to Lalitpur, Rajkot, Sattarpur, Kanpur and then returned to south. He witnessed the marriage of his erstwhile daughter Ramabai at Kasargod and felt happy to feed about 400 poor people as part of the ceremony.
He travelled again to Jhansi and then to Haridwar and Rishikesh. Purely driven by divine will, he travelled up in Himalayas to Vashistha Ashram which was not easily accessible to travellers. Despite his sparse food-intake, Ramdas was at the brim of his energy; climbing trees, cliffs and mountains were like child play to him and he was in constant bliss as he undertook his lonely journey by foot to various places in Himalayas. Everywhere Sadhus and poor villagers took abundant care of him with reverence.
Ramdas next took his journey to Pathankot, Jammu and Kashmir. He travelled to Amarnath Cave and had the thrill of seeing the ice linga there. He reached Srinagar and met many sadhus. He returned to south via Amritsar, Sattarpur, Mumbai, Sholapur and finally returned to Kasargod. Several miracles happened by the will of the divine around Ramdas and Ramdas took them matter-of-factly with the mood of a witness. Wherever Ramdas went, crowds swelled; Bhajans, Satsangs and feeding of the poor happened.
First Anandashram — at Kasargod
At Kasargod, Ramdas stayed with his eldest brother Ananda Rao. Ananda Rao was very eager to construct an Ashram for Ramadas and a nice place was located at Bilkunchi hill nearby. A devotee leased the land free of charge. Soon construction of a humble Ashram began there in that picturesque surrounding. The ashram was inaugurated on 3rd June 1928 in the presence of lots of devotees and well wishers, including the aged father and guru of Ramdas.
Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Mother Krishnabai (1903-1989)
It was in the year 1928 that Ma Krishnabai first met Ramdas, at her 25th age. Soon she surrendered totally at the holy feet of Ramdas and became his foremost disciple and future caretaker of Anandashram. She got spiritual enlightenment by the blessings and guidance of Ramdas through her dedicated practice and surrender; she was held in the highest regard by Ramdas himself for her life totally spent in loving and serving all. He wrote about Krishnabai at a future occasion: “Krishnabai’s life presents a practical illustration of how an individual can live a life of spontaneous and intense activity while ever fixed in the Divine Consciousness born of complete self-surrender.”
Krishnabai, a very pious and God-loving brahmin girl right from childhood, had a very troubled and grief stricken past. She got married at the age of 12 and widowed at the age of 20, having two young boys to take care of. After a failed attempt of suicide, Krishnabai developed dispassion for worldly life and she longed for peace and spiritual guidance to remove her grief and progress in a life dedicated to God. She got her Mantra initiation from Siddharudha Swami of Hubli. She also had a few other Mantra initiations from others. She was very dedicated and systematic in practicing mantra japas, without any selfish motive. Yet not finding peace in her life, she stared searching for a Guru who should be a jivan mukta (as per advice given to her by an astrologer).
Her ardent prayers were answered and her life took her to Kasargod. A few days after the Ashram was inaugurated, the caretakers of Krishnabai, who were devoted to Ramdas brought her to the Ashram. Krishnabai felt instantly at peace at her meeting with Ramdas. Ramdas’ divine attraction brought her back to Ashram again and again and she enjoyed Ramdas’ satsang immensely.
Soon she received Mantra Diksha from Ramdas and started actively engaged in japa as per his guidelines; she continued to be a regular visitor to the ashram ; however, Ramdas did not permit her to stay in Ashram, despite her deep wish to do so. She got closely acquainted with the esrtwhile family members of Ramdas (wife Rukmabai and daughter Ramabai) who too were now earnest devotees of Ramdas.
During the early stages of Ashram, Ramdas stayed fully in the Ashram and several earnest devotees too stayed with him. After about a year, Ramdas heeded to the repeated plea of his devotees from North India to visit them.
Mother Krishnabai, could not bear the idea of getting separated from her guru and she pleaded to Ramdas not to leave devotees like her to despair through the separation. She wanted to stay in the Ashram permanently. But Ramdas was firm that her duty to her children demanded her presence at home. One day, she left the ashram late in the evening with lot of reluctance. The next morning news came that she had spent the whole night alone at the adjacent hill and she was bitten by a snake in her leg and her leg was fully swollen.
Ramdas rushed to see her at the hills and brought her to the Ashram; he chided her for her obstination and then arranged to send her back home. After treatment Krishnabai became alright.
Ramdas travels across North India again
Ramdas visited Bangalore, Sholapur, Pandharpur, Anchor and Osmanabad. Old acquaintances and new devotees surrounded him wherever he went; bhajans and satsangs happened amid huge gatherings. In Osmanabad, people belonging to cobbler class (considered untouchables those days) invited Ramdas to attend a devotional function at their place. Ramdas visited them along with several brahmin devotees. A massive crowd of cobbler community had gathered there to have a darshan of Ramdas. They conducted pada puja to him and offered prasad that even the brahmins took along with him.
From there, Ramdas proceeded to Mumbai, Wadhwan, Rajkot, Ahmadabad, Agra and Jhansi. He briefly returned to Kasargod to see his seriously ailing father and then started again to the disappointment his close devotees at home. Ramdas travelled to Chennai, Nagpur, Jhansi and Rawalpindi. Everywhere his old eager devotees were overwhelmed to meet him again and enjoy his divine company. Next Ramdas went to Srinagar and then returned to Rawalpindi. Then he visited Dhanbad, Katrasgarh, Chennai, Kumbakonam, Ernakulam and finally returned to Kasargod.
Krishnabai leaves her family and returns to Ramdas
During the period of his absence, Krishnabai lovingly took care of and nursed the aged and ailing father of Ramdas and also Rukmabai who was suffering from Asthma.
After his return, Krishnabai had to accompany her relatives to Dharwar, which she did extremely reluctantly due to her unwillingness to part with Ramdas. She went to Mumbai, entrusted her children to her close relatives and then took a firm decision to leave worldly life and return to Ramdas. She arrived at Kasargod by train virtually empty handed and decided to walk straight to the ashram all alone in the night. By a divine miracle, she was guided to the ashram in total darkness through a mysterious light emanating from her feet; thus, she presented herself before Ramdas unawares at about 9 PM at the Ashram! Ramdas was undertaking a vow of silence and fasting those days and he burst out into laughter upon seeing Krishnabai there at those odd hours. Krishnabai too had a hearty laugh!
Ramdas wrote in a piece of paper “Mother, you have come to your own home now; the ashram shall, in future, be your permanent place of residence“. Krishnabai felt a great relief and joy on seeing the welcome note.
As expectable in a conservative society, a young widow leaving behind her family and staying permanently and interacting actively with Ramdas, created slanderous talks and gossips. Other residents in the ashram were threatened by their families and most of them left. Regular visitors to the ashram too started dwindling.
Krishnabai immersed herself to active sadhana under the guidance of Ramdas at the Ashram. When Ramdas asked Krishnabai as to what sort of spiritual attainment she was keen to get, Krishnabai replied: “Papa, I want to be one with your eternal and infinite Being and know you and I are one. Besides, nobody should know that I have realized your immanent and transcendent Being.”
Ramdas engaged Krishnabai to practice deep meditation for the first time. With total dedication and mental strength Krishnabai immersed herself deep into her inner being and soon realized her individual self merging with Universal self, which, according to her experience was nothing but the all pervading formless aspect of her beloved Papa Himself. This happened in the year 1930. After she got that experience, Krishnabai lost interest in all her service activities including serving Papa and she was content to remain immersed in divine bliss.
Kasargod Anadashram abandoned
During a brief period, when only Ramdas and Krishnabai stayed alone at the Ashram, thieves and thugs came to the Ashram at one night. One of them tried to misbehave with Krishnabai; fortunately, by chanting Rama nama loudly, both Ramdas and Krishnabai got protected by the power of Lord Rama and the thieves ran away, totally scared.
This incidence made Ramdas to take a decision that such a secluded place away from any residences nearby was not safe for women devotees. He decided to abandon the ashram and leave Kasargod immediately, leaving future things to unfold as per the will of Rama. But Krishnabai pleaded to him again and again not to forsake her and she begged him to take her along wherever he opted to go. After refusing for a while, Ramdas ultimately decided not to forsake his ardent disciple. He took her to Hosdurg and stayed with devotees.
New Anandashram comes up at Manjapathi (Ramnagar), Kanhangad
Based on the suggestion and requests by earnest devotees, Ramdas decided to start a new Ashram close to Manjapathi hill which was also close to Kanhangad town and yet a picturesque and extremely peaceful place, surrounded by natural greenery, fertile fields and the hills.
Ramdas wrote to all his acquaintances across India for their help in starting the new ashram. Money flowed in generously from eager devotees. Without any delay, construction of the new ashram premises started. The new Anandashram was inaugurated on May 15h, 1931. Ramdas dedicated the Ashram to the service of the people cutting across all barriers of caste, religion, age, sex or creed and the two guiding principles of the Ashram would be Universal Love and Service. Krishnabai gradually was able to a return to a state of active life (yet blissfully remaining in sahaja samadhi state) and was in the forefront of the inaugural function and all the other activities of the new Ashram. She was a born administrator and showed her mettle in facing all hardships with smile and serving everyone with love and care like a mother.
Ramdas considered all religions equal and respected all the great spiritual masters of the past. The Ashram sported the pictures and portraits of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saradadevi, BHagwan Ramana Maharshi, Saibaba, Jesus Christ, Sri Aurobindo, Lord Buddha, Jorastra, Swami Vivekananda, Gurunanak and Ramdas’ own guru — his father.
Soon Rukmabai and also Ramdas’s father and Guru left their worldly life.
Soon the Anandashram became the center of attraction to so many devotees; people and spiritual aspirants from all walks of life came to Anandashram to take part in japa, meditation and satsangs. Several distinguished Sadhus from other religious maths too regularly visited the Ashram to be in the divine company of Ramdas.
‘The Vision’ magazine
The Ashram’s monthly English Magazine ‘The Vision’ with Ramdas as its editor started its publication in the year 1933. The magazine continues to be published even today.
Ramdas’ second round of travelling experiences were written by him in the form of a book ‘In the Vision of God’ which got published by Anandashram in the year 1934.
Ramdas’ physical body had got considerably weakened on account of his incessant travels totally ignoring proper food and rest; he was affected by rheumatism and exhaustion. Krishnabai took extreme care and concern on his physical frame by providing him with essential minimum comforts and rest which he was all along negligent of. Ramdas, by this time was also free from his erstwhile tendency to wander with total freedom except for two tours done during 1931 to 1938, done in the company of his caretakers. He stayed put in the Ashram between 1938 to 1949. Consequently, more and more of his devotees and new visitors started visiting the Ashram and the Ashram had to expand.
Ramdas made it a point to feed the poor in large numbers particularly at the times of religious festivals, cutting across all barriers of caste, religion or creed.
From the generous contribution from devotees, new buildings to house the printing activities, kitchen, guest house, residential quarters for the staff, Cowshed and so on.
An elementary school under the care of the Ashram (Sri Krishna Vidyalaya) was started in the year 1942. In the year 1946, Sri Krishna Udyogshala, an institute for vocational training was started. A small hospital was also run by the Ashram from 1952. (All these institutions were handed over to Government in later years).
Coming into the fold of Ramdas — Swami Satchidananda (1919-2008)
It was in the year 1947 that Ananta Sivan at his age of 28 met Ramdas at the Ashram for the first time. As a young brahmin boy of 5 to 6 years, Ananta Sivan had lost his mother and did not have a happy home at his childhood. After his education he joined defence services. He had deep spiritual inclination and was searching for meaning to his life. After having a few bouts of depression, he was guided to meet Ramdas by divine dispensation. He was instantly attracted by the divinity of Ramdas and the bountiful motherly love from Krishnabai. He felt that his real home was Anadashram and he became its permanent resident from 1949.
He served Ramdas as a secretary and took care of his personal needs. He also assisted in the hectic activities of Krishnabai. Due to an inner urge, he felt the need to go to Himalayas and do intense spiritual practice so as to qualify himself better for a truly devoted selfless service at the Ashram. Despite Krishnabai’s objections, he went to Rishikesh and started practicing meditation in solitude.
However, after about 8 months, he was called back by Ramdas to accompany them on an Indian tour. Circumstances developed in such a way that he could not return to Rishikesh and he understood clearly that his life and spiritual progress was linked to serving Ramdas and being a right hand to Krishnabai in her administrative work. Parallely progressing in his spiritual quest, Ananta Sivan was given Sanyasa Diksha with a name Satchidananda. He too became a self-illumined disciple of Ramdas and the future head of the ashram after the departure of Ramdas and Krishnabai from the world.
Ramdas undertakes World Tour
Anandashram Trust was formed in the year 1954. Ramdas accompanied by Krishnabai and Swami Satchidanda undertook a world tour from August 1954 until January 1955.
His world tour covered Switzerland, Germany, France and England at Europe. At france (Gretz) he visited Ramakrishna ashram and met Swami Siddeshwarananda. At Sussex in England, he met the famous Christian mystique Henry Thomas Hamblin. Papa also visited Shakespere’s birthplace. Ramdas conducted Satsangs and spread the message of Universal love and God consciousness in all the places he visited, which were attended by avid spiritual seekers cutting across religious barriers.
His tour continued to USA and Hawaii; He then proceeded to Japan and met the famous Buddhist scholar D.T. Suzuki there. The tour continued to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaya, Singapore, Cylon and back to India.
End of Papa
On the evening of July 25th 1963 at Papa’s 80th year, he had a severe heart attack. He was collapsing and Mother Krishnabai and Swami Satchidananda managed to take him to his cot. While lying down there, he suddenly sat up chanting “Hari, Hari, Hari Ram.” With the name of God on his lips Papa breathed his last.
At the feet of Ramdas…
While his divine presence without his physical body continued to be felt in the Ashram, Krishnabai carried on with the running of the Ashram with her motherly love and care and continued to guide avid seekers in the spiritual path of Nam-Dhyan-Seva for the next 26 years. After her passing away, Swami Satchidananda took care of the Ashram and continued to inspire avid seekers till he breathed his last in 2008.
Reverberating ever with the chanting of Ram nam and surcharged with the subtle presence of these three great spiritual masters, Anandashram continues to be the place of attraction for sincere seekers of Spirituality at Kanhangad, Kerala.
….Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram….
- Anandashram – official website
- In Quest of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download from Anandashram website
- “Introduction to The Essential Swami Ramdas” by Susunaga Weeraperuma – free pdf: World Wisdom, Inc.
- In the vision of God – by Papa Ramdas — free pdf download (from Anandashram website)
- My beloved Papa Ramdas by Swami Satchidananda — From Divine Life Society web page
- Guru’s Grace — Life of Mother Krishnabai – Free pdf download
- Video — Swami Ramdas’ World tour