Andashram

Mataji and Papa Ram Das

“This opening of the individual consciousness on the universal consciousness is a
movement of self-transcendence. Every growth in human consciousness is a
movement of self-transcendence.[59] The individual self grows by contact with
other selves, transcending the limits of its own consciousness by contact with
another form of consciousness. Human nature, it has been said, is constituted by
its capacity for self-transcendence.[60] The final stage in human growth is
reached when the human consciousness goes beyond its natural limits, beyond the
categories of time and space, and encounters the supreme consciousness, the
consciousness of the One. This is what is described in religious language as
‘grace.’ (p.217) As it was said in the Katha Upanishad: ‘He whom the atman
chooses, he knows the atman.'[60] The atman is the Supreme consciousness, the
one Self which is the source of all consciousness in man and in animals. In the
human consciousness there is an innate capacity for freedom, the power to choose
according to the dictates of reason. When the human consciousness, working
through sense and reason, reaches the limit of its capacity, it is drawn by
‘grace’, by the power of the Spirit, the supreme consciousness working in it, to
transcend its personal limitations and to participate in the divine
consciousness, the consciousness of the supreme Self. This is what in Hindu
tradition is called the ‘fourth’ state, the state beyond the physical, the vital
and the mental, the passing beyond into the state of ‘ananda’, of bliss
consciousness.[61]”

The One Light – Bede Griffiths’ Principal Writings
Chapter IV, East, Part One – The Wisdom of India p.215-217
Edited and with Commentary by Bruno Barnhart
Templegate Publishers, Springfield, Illinois
ISBN 0-87243-254-8

Sometime after the experience of the Inter-religious Conference in Cochin, Kerala, I was advised by Fr. Bede that I should now start slowly going out to visit some other ashrams. He stated particularly that I should not only go the Christian ones but start with one that was Hindu and he recommended a place called Anandashran. He gave me the address and said I should write and ask when was a good time etc.  This I did and it was the first Hindu ashram that I went and spent about ten days. To give you an idea of the place and its founder, here is a note taken from Wilkedpedia: Vittal Rao was born in Kerala, India in 1884 to Sri Balakrishna Rao and Smt. Lalita Bai. He worked as a spinning master in a cotton mill and in 1908 he married. He experienced difficulties, both in his financial pursuits and domestic life, and seeking relief from his circumstances, he began to chant “Ram” – a name of God. Soon after, his father gave to him a holy mantra to repeat, the Ram Mantra – ‘Sri Ram jai Ram jai jai Ram’. Through inner guidance he started adding the ‘Om’ to each repetition – ‘Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram’ and he found the benefit at least threefold.
He quickly became detached from materialistic pleasures and left on a pilgrimage, taking on the name Ramdas, and living on charity (though he never accepted money). His practice was to view the world as forms of Ram – and thus to see everything that might befall him as the will of Ram. His mantra practice also gradually became a round-the-clock practice.
In 1922 he encountered the sage, Ramana Maharshi, and received his grace. As a result of this, he went into his first retreat, living for 21 days in solitude in a cave in Arunachala. Upon leaving this cave he was filled with the realization that, “All was Rama, nothing but Rama”[1] Some time later an absorption experience near Mangalore fully erased his personal identity, so that only Oneness prevailed.
After continuing to live on the roads for many years, his devotees established Anandashram for him in Kanhangad, Kerala in 1931. The ashram worked to improve the living conditions of the local people, and continues to this day to share Swami Ramdas’ vision of Universal Love and Service.
A list of Ramdas’ well known disciples includes Mataji Krishnabai, Swami Satchidananda, Swami Mudrananda and Yogi Ramsuratkumar.He died in 1963.
It was quite a journey by train to go there but as usual the scenes of the countryside in Kerala were so lush and green that it was most relaxing for the eyes. It had been several years since the passing away of Papa Ram Das, and now his disciple Mataji Krishnabai was in charge of the ashram and she was the residing Guru. From the train station I took a rickshaw and arrived there sometime in the morning of the 17th January 1982. They were expecting me and someone took me to my room and then to meet Swami Satchidananda who was also a very close disciple of Papa Ramdas, He was a very soft spoken and welcoming individual. He was also in charge of the library and so he made sure I had a book to read.

He told me that Mataji was resting but he wanted me to visit the main parts of the ashram before having some rest and so we went to the main room where the ‘satsang’ (gathering of the faithful) took place. He made a point of showing me a picture of Jesus on the wall and he said “See, he is also here.” He explained to me the main teaching of Papa Ram Das which was upheld here.

Through the devotion to the Name and through service, one can arrive to the experience of the One in oneself and in all creation. He explained how to chant the mantra given to them by their Guru Papa Ram Das. There were some small children in the temple and they were chanting “Sri Ram, Jai Ram, JaI jai Rama Om..” The singing was soft and beautiful and it seemed to go on and on all day.

I was given the tour of the ashram and also the schedule and told when Mataji will be at the chant and I could come and see her. I went to my room to put away my things and discovered that there was a snack of fruits etc on my table.
I went to the temple in the afternoon when Mataji was there. she was a tiny little woman and sat cross-legged and led the chant. There was a little boy who sat close to her. he followed her every move.

She explained that Papa said: If you chant the Name, thinking of God in your heart, in all others and in the entire universe, you will taste the sweetness. It is like the sugar in the sugarcane plant, it is sweet from the roots to the top. Same way, you will taste the sweetness of God”

After the chant was over, she beckoned to me to come and she welcomed me and told me to continue to chant with my beads this afternoon before meditation. she indicated a place outside where I could go to meditate. It was beautiful and quiet and from that spot I could see the sea.

I was tired after meals and so I went to bed early and luckily so as people were up and about, showering etc from as early as 3 am. By 4am we were seated in the temple as the chant and prayers continued. There was a sweetness about this place. It was in great simplicity and during the day, one could always hear the sound of children chanting “Sri Ram Sri Ram”

The days were rolling by and I kept doing the practices and taking part in the activities and reading the book about the life of the Holy man Papa Ram Dass until the day arrived for my departure. That morning after the prayers I went to say good bye to Mataji and she had prepared a little brown bag with sweets for the journey.

She reminded me of what her Guru’s message was and I asked her “Please pray for me” and she said “I am but a child of the Universe, of course I will pray for you” and I left and went to my room to get my things ready. Sometime later I was in Swami Satchidananda’s office as he told me to come for some books.

They always had a choice of spiritual books to give away and while chatting with him, the rickshaw  to take me to the station had arrived and was blowing its horn. I got my suitcase, said pranams, farewell and was going out into the yard and the little boy came running after me, “you cant leave without saying goodbye to Mataji” and with that he held my hand and pulled me to follow him back into the house.

There was one of those swing doors and he pushed into and pulled me in and there was Mataji seated on the floor and he was going to yell “Mataji!” But I made a sign to stop. I looked at as she sat there in deep meditation. I bowed and left, carrying the picture of her in my mind.

Soon I was back in the rickshaw going into the city and the noise of the engine was so loud and after the quiet of the ashram, It was as though bombs were exploding all around and there was nothing I could do about it.

I took out my beads and started chanting ‘Sri Ram Jai Ram’ and soon I was on the train, and all the hustle and bustle of the railway station, the voice of the tea vendor “Chai, Chai Gurum’!, The “Wheep wheep of the train whistle, as it began to take speed, the sound of the engine and the metal wheels hitting the rails, all this became one beautiful melody fading into one sound alone “ooooooommmmmmm”

I took out a sweet from the little brown bag that Mataji gave me and placed it in my mouth and something happened.
It was strongly intoxicating feeling that took over me from the souls of my feet and creeped up to the top of my head and the words of Mataji came to me “Papa said its as sweet as the sugar in the sugar cane, and you will taste the Presence from the roots of the tree to the top of its stalks”!

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