Akshara Mana Malai- 100 years
“Desirelessness is wisdom” teaches Sri Ramana Maharshi in the seminal work “Who am I”. Followers of Ramana Maharshi strive for desirelessness as a spiritual goal.
Even spiritual aspirants committed to “desirelessness” must engage in life sustaining acts like finding food and water. Renunciates in Hinduism are permitted to live on alms as a means of cultivating desirelessness and humility.
Some renunciates who associated with Ramana Maharshi lived on alms. They went to town collectively in a group singing praises of the Lord.
Before descending the Hill for alms, the sadhu would blow a conch shell, providing an initial notice to the pious residents of the town who provided them food. Once again, at the foot of the Hill they would blow the conch announcing their arrival at the town for alms. The town folks graciously offered them plenty of food out of respect for their association with Ramana Maharshi who was living on the Hill.
The arrangement worked well until men who were not followers of Ramana Maharshi found out the special generosity of householders towards devotees of Maharshi. They too formed a group, blew on a conch and walked the streets singing traditional praises of the Lord. Purposely, they started on the rounds to collect food a little earlier than the devotees of the Maharshi. The generous householders could not distinguish between Bhagavan’s real devotees and the imposters who were similarly clad and singing similar praises of the Lord. The devotees of Maharshi had to return with meager collections and accept hunger.
The devotees, victimized by identity theft, turned to their Savior, Ramana Maharshi who was personification of the infinite compassion of Arunachala with matchless power to change misfortune into good fortune. Perumal Swamy a disciple of Maharshi requested Him to compose a unique prayer that would secure for them the Presence of Ramana Maharshi and reveal to the world their true status as His genuine followers.
Normally those going out begging for food sing a song with the refrain “Samba SadaSiva, Samba SadaSiva, Samba SadaSiva Hara Hara”. At first, the Maharshi composed a few similar lines with the refrain “Arunachala” and stopped. Perumal was waiting for the next lines but was disappointed. One day, the Maharshi went for giri pradakshina(walking around the hill) alone. That day one hundred and eight verses invoking the grace of Lord Arunachala gushed forth like a perennial spring from the depths of Maharshi’s heart.
The very name of the song reveals its import (bhava); the bride was the Jiva (Maharshi himself) the bridegroom was Lord Arunachala. The Maharshi created situations where the bride pined for the bridegroom and thus composed the song.
Normally a pining lover’s words would be piteous but when they are accompanied by devotion the effect is perfect. The bride displays various feelings like self-pity, bashfulness, maturity and hurt at being spurned; all these make the poem exquisite with a remarkable co-mingling of bhakti(devotion) and sringara(romantic love). Like sugar in milk, the poem abounds in upadesa of wisdom also. In the original Tamil the words employed have more than one meaning, which makes a perfect translation impossible. Those who sing and listen to the song at the Ashram are overwhelmed with joy. When the bhava is sweet and the words are delicately balanced – this is only to be expected. This song has a soothing effect in the hearts of devotees.
The first effect of the sacred song was to solve the problem of food shortage. In “Day by Day with Bhagavan” it is recorded that Bhagavan says that Akshara Mana Malai fed the devotees for many years. The power of the song is far greater than simply vouching daily ration of food by the Grace of Arunachala. It assures for us the presence of Arunachala and Sri Ramana Maharshi wherever we may live.
Sri Ramana Maharshi poured His heart out and imparted His spiritual power into Akshara Mana Malai as a gift to His devotees so that they may easily invoke His gracious presence wherever they want. The sacred poem if regularly chanted confers the protective umbrella of Aruanachala (Maha Guru Sri Ramana Maharshi). It has the power to remove the obstacles facing the devotee and to guide him in day-to-day life.
A hundred years have passed since the “Akshara mana Malai” came into existence. The centenary event will be observed by organizing daily chants of Akshara Mana Malai at the ashram and all the centers dedicated to Ramana Maharshi. May all devotees learn and chant Akshara Mana Malai with fervour! May they all emerge victorious in their endeavour to gain self-knowledge of which Arunachala and Ramana Maharshi are supreme symbols! May all benefit by the power of the presence of Ramana Maharshi revealed by his immortal composition “Akshara Mana Malai”.
Quote from Bhagavan
This (food) alone is the service (needed) for this (body). Ramana Maharshi’s written reply to Tambiran who wished to worship him formally.