By Pradeep Krishnan
Pradeep Krishnan meets Sri V V Brahmam, a jnana yogi who attained enlightenment simply by gazing at the portrait of Sri Ramana Maharshi of Tiruvannamalai
bout a year ago, while I was browsing in the library of Anandashram, Kanhangad, Kerala, the book, Blueprints for Awakening – wisdom of the masters by John David (formerly Swami Premananda) at once caught my attention. It contained the author’s interviews with 16 Indian masters on advaita (non dualism), particularly on the teachings of Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi, of Tiruvannamalai. Being a staunch devotee of Sri Ramana Maharshi, I immediately started reading the book. I was amazed by the experiences narrated by different masters and right away decided to meet all the living masters, one by one.
Later, I came to know that one of the self-realised masters, Shri V V Brahmam, a family man and a school teacher, had in 1982 established the Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi Ashram, on the outskirts of Tadpatri town in Andhra Pradesh. On getting his consent for an interview, I went to Tadpatri on August 14, 2016.
As I stepped inside the sprawling one-acre campus of the ashram, the play of cool breeze, the verdant sight of tall trees all around, the chirping of birds and the beautiful garden alive with colourful flowers, instantaneously put me at ease. Except for the occasional ringing of bells from a nearby Shiva temple, there was complete silence. For a few moments, I felt as if I was in an ancient ashram straight out of an epic.
Born in 1944 as the second child of Shri Varada Veeraiah and Smt Varada Narsamma at Tadpatri, Shri Varada Veera Brahmam had a remarkable spiritual experience at the age of 25, while in Sri Ramanashramam, Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu. The young school teacher attained self-realisation while gazing at the picture of Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi. In due course his life was transformed; all his inherent tendencies, desires and attachments were destroyed by the grace of the Self forever. Since then he remains free of the hold of emotions, feelings, fears and disturbances. He says, “Thereafter, only perfect peace and freedom prevails.”
Soon, people from all walks of life started coming to Nana (word for father in Telugu) as Sri Brahmam is affectionately called, seeking guidance. T. Kishore Kumar, a devotee for more than a decade, said, “Whoever comes to Nana experiences deep inner silence, peace and bliss. There are no words to express this Peace; call it Self, God, or Love.”
Before long, foreigners, particularly people from the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark and Poland started arriving to the ashram. For the past 11 years, Sri Brahmam and his son Sri Ramana Mahesh have been visiting the Czech republic yearly to hold satsang there. When I asked him what attracts foreigners to his satsangs, he said, “I don’t know. When some people came for the first time, they got immense peace and became happy. Then the word spreads fast.”
In addition to regular satsangs by Sri Brahmam, the ashram is involved in various charitable activities such as poor feeding, classical dance and bhajan classes, counselling in family problems, and providing food and shelter to sadhus and the poor. The ashram runs a free school for poor children and a home for elders about 15 kms from the ashram.
Excerpts from an exclusive interview with Shri V V Brahmam:
Please tell us about your spiritual journey.
Since childhood I was always puzzled by the purpose of life. If everybody will eventually die, what is the meaning and purpose of life? So I wanted to know what could be done to escape from death. When I was about six years old, the mantra ‘Om Nama Sivaya’ arose spontaneously in me and I started chanting it at all times. Even though I had never read any spiritual books, from the age of nine, I had trust in God. I did not meet any Guru, nor was I practising any sadhana, except the natural and spontaneous chanting of the Shiva mantra, which I had been repeating for over 15 years.
At the age of 25, I saw a portrait of Ramana Maharishi in a friend’s house. At once, I was strongly attracted to the picture and soon travelled to Sri Ramana Ashram, Tiruvannamalai, situated at the foot of the holy Arunachala Hill. Spiritually, I was a very pure young man _ I hadn’t been influenced by any Guru or philosophy, except for the incessant chanting of the mantra within. At the meditation hall of the ashram, I sat in front of Ramana Maharishi’s large-sized photo intently gazing at his compassionate eyes. I prayed to Sri Ramana, “Give me realisation or give me death. I have no other interest in life. If I am not eligible for Self-realisation, take this life. I have no desires; life has no value for me.” I sat there silently, fully surrendering my heart to Sri Ramana. Soon my breath and thoughts began to slow down and after a few minutes all thoughts and breathing came to a halt. The body disappeared, as if it had died. A few minutes later, a strong force pulled me inwards and I fell on the ground. Thereafter, I do not know what happened to me. After some time, slowly breathing started and I regained consciousness. On my first ever visit to the ashram, I think I experienced the supreme state.
Are you enlightened? Self-realised?
I can’t say clearly whether my experience was self-realisation. Anyway, it was all beyond the mind and thereafter, I got complete peace, happiness and awareness. The whole event passed off like a dream. Even though I never had that experience again, since that eventful day, to this day and this minute, I have been continuously living through unbreakable peace and awareness. Afterwards, I have had no problem with mind, thoughts or any dualities of existence because of the awareness and the power within me. I have no problem with life, people or thoughts.
What is the goal of human life? Is it that everyone must attain enlightenment?
The goal of all human beings must be to remain as a witness to the happenings around. In other words, one should not have any problem with the dualities of existence whether good or bad, beautiful or ugly, happy or sad. One must not get attached or detached with anybody or anything. Rather, one must always remain in awareness that should not give room for any disturbances.
How can one attain that stage? In your case, by the grace of God it happened. What about us ordinary people?
Understand that we are all part and parcel of the Supreme Power, which is constantly working within us. One can practise any sadhana, without break, according to one’s inner temperament, with absolute trust in God or in one’s guru. Any method that leads the seeker to peace and happiness is welcome. At the same time, realise that the supreme state can never be attained only with one’s own effort. When one prepares oneself to receive grace from the Supreme Power, it happens.
What is the core of your teaching?
In life, one must always remain in constant happiness and peace. That is the actual or real life. If one has no happiness or peace in life, it shows that s/he has not properly understood the reality behind existence. That stage can be attained either by practising some sadhana, chosen according to one’s maturity of mind, or by surrendering completely to life. While in some, sadhana happens because of grace, in others, grace takes them to sadhana. If one’s surrender to life is complete and total, unexpectedly grace descends on that person. Finally, all methods will disappear and lead one to effortless awareness.
What is the cause of sorrow? How can one get rid of sorrow?
People seek to solve their problems with their minds completely unaware of the truth that the mind itself is the problem. If one wants to solve one’s problems, it is necessary to solve the problem of the mind. How? By calming it and seeking its source. What is that? It is the heart. What is the heart? It is pure consciousness unobstructed by thinking. How to attain it? By enquiry. When a disturbing thought or feeling arises, one should ask, “To whom is it appearing? To me? Who am I?” If the first question doesn’t succeed in dissolving the problem, the next question should be put after some time and similarly the third question. If during this enquiry any answer emerges, one should continue with, “To whom is this answer appearing?” This enquiry brings our attention to the ‘false I,’ the ego, which subsequently subsides in its source, the Heart, because ego can’t exist on its own without thoughts. This way one experiences existence without the presence of the ego, and discovers its uselessness. One realises that one can live forever in this blissful and happy state.
How to remain in Self-abidance?
Be quiet. See the mind as it is. Grace descends. Then peace occupies your heart. Then be still. The Grace of Self burns all your inherent tendencies. No question or any practice needed. You have already reached the destination. That is the source of thought. If you lose your awareness, thoughts will emerge. Then if you question, ‘To whom,’ and wait, the question and thought will vanish. Again you will be in peace. Then be quiet and still. While in peace, question, ‘Who is the experiencer?’ The experiencer will disappear, but may rise again. Then again question, ‘Who am I,’ until it burns. When the seer or experiencer or the questioner burns permanently – that is Jeevanmukti (Self-realisation).
You had said: “Silence is better than talking. No harm to you, no harm to others also.” Please explain.
Ramana Maharshi remained in silence, attracting seekers from all over the globe with silence. Silence is Self. Self is everywhere. If you are so much in silence, your Self spreads everywhere. It helps others. That is the real talk. Devotees from all over the world came to him asking questions. But almost always, he did not talk. One devotee even questioned, “Why are you not talking?” There was no need to talk; because first the ego would rise, then thoughts would come from the ego and then we talk. Talking and thoughts will never give salvation, as they come from the ego. Ego doesn’t know the Self. Ego itself is an illusion. So, no use of talking. On the other hand, silence is the supreme power of the Self that helps one to remain in calm and peace. Neither giving advice nor teaching will give any permanent solution. Be silent, and so much power will arise within. That power will do all the talking, working and thinking very naturally. Everything will be in harmony and peace. Self is ruling this universe with silence. Silence means: Be the Self.
Do you sometimes feel sad or get angry?
I get angry or sad intentionally. They come and go without any effort on my part. In fact, they happen for the sake of others as it helps them to remove their ignorance, pride and ego. As I always remain aware as a witness, these are only body actions that happen spontaneously.
How far are rituals important in spiritual life?
If you perform rituals without effort and with awareness, it would help one to gain peace. Rituals must be done without ego or pride or without any desire. It also depends on grace. Since ancient times, different types of practices have been prescribed depending on the growth of the individual. Ramanujacharya once said that if you repeat ‘Om Namo Narayana’ even once, heartfully and with purity, that will help.
In our day-to-day life, handling relationships is difficult. How to properly handle relationships?
Whenever you get in touch with a person, the ideas you formed about him/her immediately enters your mind. About your close relationships, such as with your wife, son, daughter, strong feelings of attachment and ideas are embedded in your mind. You always consider them as ‘your’ so and so. On the other hand, with a stranger in a bazaar, you have no such sentiments or attachments. When a difference of opinion crops up, instead of being stubborn with one’s ideas, recognise that everything happens because of Supreme Will and leave the rest to the Divine. Realise that the Supreme Power, which is working in me, is also working in others and keep quiet.
How do you view the different Gurus, paths, techniques and methods?
Everything is happening in the Universe because of God. According to one’s maturity, temperament and level of understanding of life, one will get a Guru. The Guru or method that you are comfortable with is the perfect one for you. The Guru happens because of the inner connection. If you approach the Guru with an empty mind with no desires, ideas and opinions, then grace and bliss will come to you in abundance.
Is a Guru really required to advance on the spiritual path?
All gurus have said that in the beginning according to your level, a Guru is needed. Ultimately, the ‘outer’ guru helps you to find out the ‘inner’ Guru.
You never had a physical guru?
In my life, as God was guiding me right from the beginning, I had no questions and doubts and hence I had never felt the need for a physical guru. The Self was guiding me. If you have any questions, sit silently with peace and awareness. Immediately answers will come from within, naturally, beautifully. There is no need to seek advice from outside, answers would come from within. There are a number of mahatmas who simply remained in meditation and silence and got guidance from inside.
What is your concept of God?
No one can define God. However, there are so many ideas and concepts prevalent about God. Each one understands God according to his/her state of mind. To me, God is everywhere as endless peace and awareness. Each one experiences God in one’s own unique way.
How to remain in constant peace and happiness?
Bhagwan Ramana’s advice was, “Burn your ego.” How to burn the ego? The best way is to practice surrender. Surrender must happen inside. No need to go to Himalayas or forests. Wherever you are, be aware of the real nature of your Self; you are God. In deep sleep without any effort, thoughts subside naturally. With effort or method it is not possible. Do not think too much about the world, the world will take care of itself.
About the author : Pradeep Krishnan is a seeker based in Trivandrum, Kerala, seeking answers to ‘existence’ and a student of consciousness deeply attracted to the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
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