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Swami Niranjanananda and T. N. Venkataraman (later Swami Ramanananda) whose life-stories are told in this book, in the words of Smt. Mangalam the grand daughter, in the case of the former and in his own words in the case of the latter were such luckiest ones who served a Supreme Jnani with all love for decades. Of course, they did not have to identify Him for when you see a meteor you don’t need a telescope to identify it. Bhagavan Sri Ramana was a spiritual meteor of the brightest lustre, He came as light, lived as light, left literally as a meteor and is ever present as the all-pervasive Light of Jnana.
Moreover, Swami Niranjanananda and T. N. Venkataraman did not have to travel, like the Three Wise Men did, guided by the Star of Bethlehem, to find the Master. They were blessed to be born in the same family as the Master, as brother and as the brother’s son. Even as Mother Alagammal realised that Ramana was not just her son but the spiritual Father of millions, the very symbol of Jnana and Non-dual experience, or, as poet Muruganar said, “The sure Satchidananda Siva Principle”, Swami Niranjanananda and T. N. Venkataraman took very little time, if at all, to see in Ramana the Bhagavan pure and simple. And how they served Him! How they effaced themselves totally in that service! It was an effacement which ennobled them, which made them worthy of their Master, for did he not often say, “Fame consists in effacing oneself”?
Neither of these two great devotees whose stories are told in this book were cut out for the Jnana Marga, the Path of Knowledge, for which their Master, Bhagavan Ramana is primarily known the world over. However, by dint of their ceaseless selfless service and flaming devotion to the Master, these two karma yogis par excellence fully reaped the fruits of jnana yoga.
Swami Niranjanananda, as the Sarvadhikari of
Sri Ramanasramam by whose efforts the Matrubhuteswara Temple of the Ashram came into being, laid the firm foundation of the Ashram and built it up and his son
T. N. Venkataraman, as its President, nursed it to greater strength. “The path of love” as the Bard said, “never runs smooth.” But how much rougher and more thorny was the Path of Divine Love which these two great devotees of
Sri Bhagavan trod in His service! The travails that they went through and the way they emerged victorious, as can be seen from this book, are truly most inspiring.
A word about the disproportion in the length of the biography and the autobiography. Swami Niranjanananda, ‘The Roman Emperor’, as he was referred to by Professor
K. Swaminathan, not only in his impressive height but in his majesty and in the sternness of his discipline, kept so low a profile and so lost himself in service that precious few details are available about him but Mangalam, his grand-daughter, has shown that ‘small is beautiful’. T. N. Venkataraman’s life on the other hand, though he was a simple, unpretentious man, is relatively rich in events and he has recounted them with his own humour and gusto through the capable pen of Tamil writer La. Su. Rangarajan.
Soon after T.N. Venkataraman’s original Tamil book
“Sri Bhagavan Paniyil...” came out in 1994 he went to Rishikesh and took sannyas from the great saint Swami Chidananda, the International President of the Divine Life Society and took the name of Swami Ramanananda. He constantly repeated the word ‘Arunachala’ and was Absorbed in Arunachala and Bhagavan on 26th December 2007, the day after the 128th Jayanti celebration of Bhagavan in which he took full part.
Swami Ramanananda’s Samadhi has come up adjacent to Swami Niranjanananda’s and this book, aptly enough, is coming out to coincide with the installation of the Lingam on his Samadhi on the 23rd May 2008.
I conclude by expressing my appreciation of the efforts of Sri Ramani of Chennai and Professor Narayanan of Rajapalayam who helped in translating the original Tamil books on Niranjanananda Swami and T.N. Venkataraman, respectively, which have now been put together in one volume in English.