82. Swami Ramdas. Part 1
If one wants to find someone who gave up, in one stroke, everything, to realize God, Swami Ramdas is a prime example. Like Lord Buddha, he left his wife, daughter, job, and home; and became a penniless traveler in India. In 1920, when he was 36 year old, love for God awakened in him. The yearning for Ram ( he calls God by the name of Ram, an ancient human incarnation of God, as chronicled in Hindu holy book, Ramayana). He struggled for about 2 years, a time of terrible stress and restlessness. He would meditate and utter His name at night, and that would give him peace. One day a voice came from Deep Void; “Despair not! Trust Me and you shall be free”. He started repeating Ram, Ram, Ram in the streets. Sleep decreased to 1-2 hours. Food was reduced too to milk and plantain ( a kind of large banana ). He continued his worldly duties.
One day, during this period, his father came to him, and initiated him to repeat the ancient Hindu mantram called - Ram mantram, all the time. The mantra was “Sri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram”. He thought of renouncing the world.
His inner voice ( he refers to it , for the rest of his life, as Ram talking to him and telling him what to do ) told him to open three books, which were his constant companion those days, at random. The first book, called ‘ Light of Asia’, about the life of Lord Buddha, had the following passage;
“For now the hour has come when I should quit…………………………………………………………”
Next he opened ‘New Testament’ and came across this quotation:
“And everyone who has forsaken houses or brethren or sisters, or father or mother or wife or children or lands for my name’s sake……………………………………………………………………………..”
Next book was Bhagavad Gita:
“Abandoning all duties come to me for shelter ……………………………..”
Next day he got two clothes, one to cover upper and the other the lower body, dyed in ochre (the garb of the renunciant).
On 27th December 1922, he wrote a farewell letter to his wife. He changed his name, from Vittal Rao to Ramdas (das means servant, Ramdas means servant of Ram) and boarded the first train, that came, at 5 am. He had with him 25 rupees and few books. When he reached the next railway junction, he got down. He did not know what next to do. He wandered around aimlessly till the evening. He approached a little hut at the roadside and asked the housewife for food. She gave him food, and reluctantly accepted some money.
He went to the railway station. He had no destination in mind. At midnight a bell rang, announcing the coming of a train. Another passenger asked him his intentions. He had none. He trusted Ram for having a plan. The other person promised to take him to a nearby town where he was heading and accepted money for the ticket. He took the train with the friend, uttering the mantram all the time. He rested for night on the verandah of a house. He walked to the town. The beautiful river Kaveri was flowing
Here he was led into the secret of Ram’s plan for him; it was to take him on a pilgrimage to sacred shrines and holy rivers of India.
He discarded his white clothes and entrusted them to the river. He wore the ochre called clothes of a renunciant. He discarded the old life and took the new life.
He also took three vows:
1. He will live the rest of his life for Ram, in meditation and in service
2. He will live in chastity. He will consider all the women as mothers.
3. He will only eat the food he begs or is offered to him
From now onwards he did not know from where his next meal will come.
He came to a nearby dharmashala ( a resting place for pilgrims ) and sat on the ground with 2 other sadhus ( monks )for alms from the people passing by. The two sadhus were singing Rambhajans ( devotional songs to Ram ). After several hours of singing they found only 9 pies ( 64 pies made a rupee ). They were disappointed at the small amount for whole day’s work, not even enough for food. They said “ oh Ram is singing your glories for whole day worth only 9 pies ? ”
Ramdas then told them, that they should not be disappointed. There singing for Lord was priceless. He also reminded them that Ram does not desert those who depend on Him. He gave them one rupee.
The two sadhus became tearful. They asked Ram His pardon for doubting Him. Ram’s way of providing for the needs of the two sadhus was through His servant Ramdas
When Ramdas checked his begging lota (water vessel) he found 2 pies in it. He was overjoyed at his first alms. He thanked Ram and bought two small plantains with that money.
To be continued