Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lakshmi the Cow

This morning I was put on a Facebook list and sent a few paragraphs in which Osho spoke about Bhagavan and Lakshmi the cow. The stories narrated were extraordinarily inaccurate. This afternoon I received another offering from this list which purported to be an account of Bhagavan's final days and hours. This was also narrated by Osho, and it was just as inaccurate as his earlier story on Lakshmi. Underneath both stories were many comments by people who had read them, saying (apart from my own dissenting voice) how much they had enjoyed and appreciated the narratives.

I would guess that in the spiritual bookstores of the world, books by Osho outsell those on Bhagavan by at least a hundred to one. This means that the vast majority of people who are interested in such matters are getting wildly inaccurate versions of Bhagavan's life. There is not much that I or anyone else can do about this except to point out errors as and when they come to our attention. That is what I propose to do today by putting Osho's version of Lakshmi the cow first, and then following it with the real version.

This is what Osho had to say about Bhagavan and Lakshmi:
Perhaps once in a while a rare animal uses the window. In Shri Raman Maharshi’s ashram… and he was one of the most significant people of this century. He was not a master; that’s why people don’t know him as they know George Gurdjieff or J. Krishnamurti. They don’t know him even as they know Sri Aurobindo or P.D. Ouspensky who were only teachers — profound teachers, but not mystics.

Raman Maharshi was a silent pool of energy. Every morning he used to sit for a silent satsang, communion. He never talked much, unless asked something. Then too his answer was very short — having profundity, but you had to look for it. There was no explanation in it. His literature is confined to two, three small booklets.

His teaching was mostly to be in silent communion with the disciples. Naturally, very few people were benefited by him. But every morning he was sitting, people were sitting, and a cow would come and stand outside, putting her neck through the window, and she would remain standing there while the satsang lasted. It must have continued for years. People came and went, new people came, but the cow remained constant… and at the exact time, never late. And as the satsang would disperse she would move away.

One day she did not appear, and Shri Raman said, “Today satsang cannot be held, because my real audience is absent. I am afraid either the cow is very sick or she has died, and I have to go and look for her.” He lived on a mountain in the south of India, Arunachal. The cow belonged to a poor woodcutter who lived near the ashram. Raman left the temple where they used to meet, went to the woodcutter and asked, “What happened? The cow has not come today for satsang.”

The woodcutter said, “She is very sick and I am afraid she is dying, but she goes on looking out of the door, as if she is waiting for someone. Perhaps she is waiting for you, to see you for the last time. Perhaps that is why she is hanging around a little longer.”

Raman went in and there were tears in the eyes of the cow. And she died happily, putting her head in the lap of Raman Maharshi. This happened just in this century, and Raman declared her enlightened, and told his people that a beautiful memorial should be made for her.

It is very rare for human beings to be enlightened; it is almost impossibly rare for animals to become enlightened, but the cow attained. She will not be born again. From the body of a cow she has bypassed the whole world of humanity, and she has jumped ahead and joined with the buddhas. So once in a while — there are a few instances only — it has happened. But that cannot be called the rule; it is just the exception.
What follows is the chapter I put together on Lakshmi's life for The Power of the Presence, part three. It was assembled from many sources. There will be nothing new here for the vast majority of people who read this blog. I am putting it here only because I want to provide a link on the Facebook page that will direct readers there to a more accurate version of Lakshmi's life.

* * *

Devaraja Mudaliar: Sometime in 1926, four years after Sri Bhagavan came to live at the foot of the holy hill beside the samadhi of the mother, Arunachalam Pillai of Kumaramangalam, near Gudiyatham, entered the ashram with a cow and her young female calf and offered them to Sri Bhagavan in token of his devotion. Bhagavan tried to dissuade him, pointing out that there were no proper facilities at the ashram for looking after the cow and the calf. He told him that since he had already presented them to Bhagavan, that was enough, and he could now take them back with him and look after them not as his but as Bhagavan’s.

The opening paragraph is taken from The Cow, Lakshmi, by Devaraja Mudaliar. Comments that appear in italics are my own.

Shantammal ('Eternal Bhagavan' in Ramana Smrti Souvenir) has reported that the villager was prompted to do this by a dream. Viswanatha Swami (The Mountain Path, 1975, p. 207) also mentioned this motive.

Shantammal: In the 1920s a villager had a dream in which he was told to offer his next calf to Ramanasramam. After its birth he brought both his cow and the calf to Bhagavan. At that time the jungle around the ashram was dense and extensive enough to contain leopards and panthers. The ashram people were therefore unwilling to accept the offer, but the villager took his dream very seriously and refused to take the calf away.

Devaraja Mudaliar: Seeing his insistence and the devotion behind it, Ramanatha Brahmachari, who was then living near Bhagavan and who passed away a few years before him after many years of his gracious company, declared energetically, ‘I will look after the cow and the calf’.

Now this Ramanatha Brahmachari was a frail, puny, insignificant-looking man from whom one would normally never expect any vehemence, but on this occasion he seemed like one inspired.

He cried out, smiting his chest, ‘Here I am! I make myself responsible for the upkeep of these animals.’

So it was that, owing to the insistent devotion of Arunachalam Pillai and the unusual vehemence of Ramanatha Brahmachari, the cow and the calf came to live at the ashram. (The Cow, Lakshmi, pp. 7-8)

Bhagavan himself was not initially willing to accept the offering.

Bhagavan: You know what happened when they came here with the cow and the calf?

‘Why all this for us?’ I asked.

Arunachalam Pillai replied, saying, ‘I have for a long time been thinking of presenting Bhagavan with a cow. I am now in a position to do so. I have brought it after a good deal of trouble by boat and rail. Please keep it, Swami.’

I said, ‘You have done your duty in presenting it to us. Who is there to look after it? Please keep it with you on our behalf.’

The owner of the cow replied, ‘I will not take it away even if you cut my throat!’

Hearing this Ramanatha Brahmachari was piqued and said with great zest that he himself would look after the cow.

‘All right. Hang it round your own neck!’ I said.

As the calf came to us on a Friday, we named her Lakshmi.

Ramanatha somehow tended the cow and the calf for two or three months. Lakshmi was very playful, jumping about as she pleased, and while so doing, she ruined all the vegetable plants we were growing. If anyone chided her, she used to come to me for protection. I used to tell the ashramites that if they so desired they could put up a fence to protect their plants. Poor chap! Ramanatha could not put up with all these troubles from the other inmates of the ashram and so handed over the cow and the calf to a keeper of cattle in the town with some stipulations. I do not remember his name.’


A devotee said, ‘His name is Pasupati. He is a Kannadaga [person from Karnataka]. Lakshmi’s mother passed away after a short time. The arrangement was that if Lakshmi gave birth to a male calf it should be given to the ashram, and if it were a female calf, he should retain it.’

Bhagavan said, ‘That might be so. About a year after that he came here with Lakshmi and her calf for a bath on an eclipse day. He saw me first, had a bath in the Pali tank along with the cow and the calf and then they went home together. At that time Lakshmi saw the whole of this ashram. Remembering the route carefully, she began coming here every day. Lakshmi used to come in the morning and go away in the evening. She used to lie down by the side of my couch. If food was available, she would insist that I alone should give it to her. She would not take anything other than the hill plantain.’

A hill plantain is an exotic banana that only grows above a certain altitude. I think that Bhagavan means that she preferred hill bananas to ordinary ones. As this chapter will reveal, she happily ate a wide variety of human and animal foods.

Someone said, ‘Every evening before leaving she used to go round the hall, it seems?’ Bhagavan replied, ‘That is the thing. We had no bell in the dining hall then. We do not know how she did it but everyday exactly at the appointed time for meals she used to come and stand before me. We used to look at the clock and find that that was just the time for meals. Her coming was the signal for us. She used to return to town daily most reluctantly.’

On further enquiry I came to know that Lakshmi came away permanently to the ashram in 1930, and that she had had three calves by then, and that, as per the agreement, all the calves had been given to the ashram. When she was pregnant for the third time, one evening she was unwilling to leave Bhagavan and go home. Like Nandini of Vasishta, she was shedding tears and lay close to the couch.

Nandini is the name of a divine cow in Indian mythology. She was the daughter of Kamadhenu, whose name is also mentioned later in the chapter. All cows are supposed to be descended from Kamadhenu and Nandini. Stories about Nandini and Kamadhenu appear in many Puranas and Yoga Vasishta.

Bhagavan was visibly affected.

Softly passing his hand over her face he said, ‘What! You say you can’t go away. You only want to stay here? What am I to do?’

Looking at the others, he said, ‘Look, Lakshmi is weeping, saying she cannot go away. She is pregnant and may have confinement at any moment. She must go a long distance and again come here in the morning. She cannot refrain from coming here. What is she to do?’

At last Bhagavan somehow coaxed her and sent her away. That very night she delivered. At about the same time Pasupati had some domestic difficulties. Unable to bear the burden of this Lakshmi with all her vagaries, he brought her and her three calves and presented them to Bhagavan. Lakshmi lay at Bhagavan’s feet and would not rise. Placing his right hand on her head and pressing it, he asked if she would like to stay here permanently. She closed her eyes and lay still as if in a trance. Noticing that, Bhagavan pointed out to the others that she appeared as though her responsibility for her calves was over, for they had been placed in Bhagavan’s charge.

When I narrated this story to Bhagavan he agreed. ‘Yes,’ he said ‘that was so. After Mother came to stay with me regular cooking and meals started and after Lakshmi came, cattle and dairying became established. Subsequently, for three or four years Lakshmi was presenting us with a calf every year on Jayanti day. Afterwards, that practice stopped. Altogether she had nine deliveries.
(Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma, letter 50, 24th July, 1948)

The oldest account of Lakshmi is the one written by B. V. Narasimha Swami in 1930. Even at that early stage of her life at Ramanasramam she had established herself as a favourite of both Bhagavan and the devotees:

On a festive day two years ago both of them [Lakshmi and her mother] were brought to the ashram. Since then Lakshmi runs up every morning [from town] and gets the entire pasture of the ashram to herself. She certainly does not content herself with that. She knows meal and tiffin times and on both occasions she walks right into the hall and places her head on the Maharshi who strokes her with affection and calls out to the people in the kitchen to give her food.

She sometimes seizes an entire bunch of eight to ten plantains that someone has brought or dirties the hall with her excreta; perhaps a disciple in attendance threatens to beat her. Maharshi at once intercedes on her behalf. If she trespasses on the small vegetable garden, he objects to her being scolded or roughly treated.

You must fence your plot better. The fault is there and not with Lakshmi,’ he says.

On festive occasions she gets a good bath, turmeric paste and a little dot of vermilion powder on her forehead, with possibly one or more garlands of flowers round her neck. She goes up to the Maharshi and takes leave every evening before leaving the ashram for the town and before parting receives the presents that may be available. She is the Sakuntala [beloved adopted daughter] of the ashram now. (Self-Realization by B. V. Narasimha Swami, 1993 ed. pp. 165-6)

Bhagavan did not give Lakshmi special treatment simply because he regarded her as a favoured pet. He allowed her the freedom of the ashram because he recognised that she was a highly advanced devotee who had taken the form of a cow in order to be with him:


Shantammal: She [Lakshmi] would come daily to the ashram, have her meals, graze on the ashram land, enter the hall and sit contentedly near Bhagavan. In the evening she would go back to the town with the other women.

Once, when Lakshmi was pregnant for the third time, she came into the hall after lunch. Bhagavan was reading a newspaper at the time. Lakshmi came near him and started licking the papers.

Bhagavan looked up and said, ‘Wait a little, Lakshmi,’ but Lakshmi went on licking. Bhagavan laid his paper aside, put his hands behind Lakshmi’s horns and rested his head against hers. They stayed like this for quite a long time. I stood nearby looking at the wonderful scene.

After about ten minutes, Bhagavan turned to me and said, ‘Do you know what Lakshmi is doing? She is in samadhi.’

I looked at her and noticed that tears were flowing in streams down her broad cheeks. Her breathing had stopped and her eyes were fixed on Bhagavan.

After some time Bhagavan changed his position and asked, gently, ‘Lakshmi, how do you feel now?’

Lakshmi moved backward, as if reluctant to turn her tail towards Bhagavan, walked round the hall and went out.

Four days later Lakshmi gave birth to a calf. The man with whom Lakshmi used to stay brought her with her progeny and left them in the ashram for good. Lakshmi, with her three calves, came into the hall and lay down by the sofa.

Bhagavan saw her and remarked, ‘All these days Lakshmi had to go in the evening to the town. She always left in tears. Today she is delighted because she need not go away anymore. She knows that her home is here now. We shall have to look after her. Look at her! With what self-assurance she has stretched herself out!’

The last account is taken from
‘Eternal Bhagavan’ by Shantammal in Ramana Smrti Souvenir. Suri Nagamma has recorded another incident in which Lakshmi lost consciousness of her body in the presence of Bhagavan. It happened during a veena concert that was being given in the hall. See The Mountain Path, 1980, p. 145.

T. S. Ananta Murthy noted in his biography of Bhagavan that Lakshmi would ask Bhagavan to look at her new calf whenever she gave birth:

The cow became so attached to Sri Ramana she would, of her own accord, walk from the shed to the hall every morning and kneel at his feet…

What was equally interesting was that Lakshmi would walk into the hall from her shed a few minutes after the birth of her new calf and stand mutely before him. Sri Ramana would then address the cow as follows: ‘Lakshmi, you have come to tell me that you now have a new baby. I will come to the shed and see your child.’ (
Life and Teachings of Sree Ramana Maharshi, by T. S. Ananta Murthy, p. 147)

Shantammal was not the only devotee to report that Lakshmi went into samadhi in Bhagavan’s presence.

Sadhu Natanananda: Sri Bhagavan himself once pointed out the sanctity of Lakshmi by saying, ‘What tapas she must have performed in her previous births! It may be that she is living in our midst now only to complete her unfinished tapas.’

Once, when she came as usual for Bhagavan’s darshan and was standing in his presence, Sri Bhagavan, looking out at her with great affection, started stroking her head.

Then, turning to the other devotees with a smile, he asked, ‘Do you know what state Lakshmi is in now?’

When no answer was forthcoming, he astonished us by saying, ‘She is in nirvikalpa samadhi,’ thus revealing the extraordinary power of his grace and the spiritual maturity of Lakshmi. (
Ramana Darshanam, by Sadhu Natanananda, p. 17)

Lakshmi’s special status in the ashram gave her the freedom to help herself to any food that was brought by devotees because Bhagavan would always support her if devotees complained. He would also take her side if anyone tried to prevent her from coming to see him:

Subbalakshmi Ammal: On the afternoon of our first visit we took cashew nuts and sugar candy as an offering to Bhagavan and went to his ashram. After entering the hall we placed our offerings on a stool before him and sat down. The cow Lakshmi, who happened to be lying near Bhagavan’s sofa, got up and began to chew our precious offerings. Bhagavan looked on and said nothing. His attendant, Madhava Swami, did not even bother to look.

We thought it might be impious to disturb the cow, but soon I got exasperated and exclaimed, ‘Please remove the cow!’

Madhava Swami replied innocently: ‘Why? I thought you offered those sweets to Lakshmi!’ (
‘My Life, my Light’, by Subbalakshmi Amma, in Ramana Smrti Souvenir)

N. N. Rajan: Once I was bringing eatables in a large open vessel. Cow Lakshmi, who had come behind me, was eating from the vessel unnoticed by me.

Bhagavan remarked, ‘Enough Lakshmi, enough! Leave something for us.’

So saying, he gave some more to her and sent her away. The attendant ridiculed and chided me for being so careless.

But Bhagavan, out of his grace, said, ‘Why do you blame him? Poor man, he is too innocent to notice all this.’

I have received this certificate of innocence from my Master. What more do I require in this life? (
Moments Remembered, by V. Ganesan, p. 88)

Suri Nagamma: One morning in January 1947 Lakshmi the cow entered the hall hurriedly with her legs, body and tail full of mud, with blood oozing out of her nose and with a half-severed rope around her neck. She went straight to the sofa where Bhagavan sat. The attendants began saying with some disgust that she had come in with mud on her body.

Bhagavan, however, said with affection, ‘Let her come. Let her come. What does it matter how she comes?’

Addressing the cow, he said, ‘Come, my dear. Please come near.’

So saying, he passed his hand over the body lightly, patted her on the neck and looking at the face said, ‘What is this? Some blood is oozing!’

One of the attendants said, ‘Recently they put a rope through her nose’.

Oho! Is that the reason? That is why she has come here to complain about it. Is it not very painful for her? Unable to bear the pain, she has come running to complain to me even without washing her body. What to do? Give her some iddlies or something,’ said Bhagavan, evincing great solicitude for her predicament.

The attendants gave her some plantains and thus managed to send her out. I went to the kitchen, brought some iddlies and gave them to her. She was satisfied and went away to her usual place.

After all of us returned to the hall and sat down, Bhagavan remarked, looking at the attendants, ‘Do not all of you come to me to relate your troubles? She too has done the same thing. Why, then, are you vexed with her for coming here with mud on her? When we have troubles, do we consider whether our clothes are all right or our hair is properly brushed?’ (
Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma pp. 74-5)

Krishna Bhikshu: One day the cow Lakshmi came to the hall. She went straight up to Bhagavan, put her head on Bhagavan’s shoulder and wept. Bhagavan sat very quietly and gently stroked her head.

‘Why are you so sad?’ he whispered in her ears. ‘Who has hurt you? Cheer up, my dear, stop crying. I am here to befriend you.’

Lakshmi stopped crying, gave Bhagavan a few licks and went away comforted. (
‘The Bhagavan I knew,’ by Krishna Bhikshu, in Ramana Smrti Souvenir)

Annamalai Swami: Whenever Lakshmi came for darshan she would walk very fast, not caring about anyone who stood in the way. It was left to the devotees to decide whether they wanted to get out of the way or be trampled on. When she reached Bhagavan’s couch, she would often stand in front of Bhagavan and put her head on his feet. If she came a little closer, he would gently caress her head and neck. Often, they would be so close together, Lakshmi’s saliva would fall on Bhagavan’s body. If any special food was served in the ashram, Bhagavan would serve some to Lakshmi in the hall itself. I have seen him serving her iddlies, payasam and vadai, all on a banana leaf, just as if she were a human being. Sometimes he would take the food directly to the cowshed and serve her there.

On one occasion, when there was very little grass in the ashram, Bhagavan noticed that Lakshmi was not getting enough to eat. That day when he went to the dining room he refused to eat the meal that had been served to him. Instead, he asked the servers to give it to Lakshmi. When news of this strange gesture reached the cowshed, the workers there realised that he was indirectly protesting against the maltreatment of Lakshmi. Some fodder was brought from the bazaar, enabling both Bhagavan and Lakshmi to resume their normal meals.


It has been widely reported that Lakshmi often gave birth to a cow on Bhagavan’s birthday. I once saw one of these calves, pure white in colour, sitting in front of Bhagavan in the hall. Because of its colour and position, it looked just like Nandi, the mount of Siva. At that time Bhagavan was sitting on a tiger skin, Valli the deer was sitting nearby, the charcoal burner was glowing in front of the sofa, and there was a silver cobra nearby which was being used as an incense holder. With all the accoutrements of the mythical Siva in evidence, it looked like a scene from Mount Kailash, the mountain in the Himalayas where Siva is said to reside. (
Living By The Words Of Bhagavan, 1st ed., pp. 86-7 )

When other cows were given to the ashram in the early 1930s, it was decided that a proper cowshed should be built for them:

Bhagavan: After Lakshmi came to stay here, cows from different places were brought by devotees and left here. So the cattle shed grew in size. In the beginning they were tied up here and there under a thatched shed. When Salem Sundaram Chetty, a judge, came here, he decided to construct a cowshed and fixed an auspicious time for the laying of the foundation stone. Half an hour before the appointed time, when everything was being made ready, Lakshmi broke loose from her tether and came to me running, as though to tell me that a house was being constructed for her and that I should be there. When I got up, she led me to the spot. She did the same for her housewarming ceremony also. Somehow she used to understand everything. Very smart indeed! (
Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, letter 50, 24th July, 1948.)

In Sri Ramana Reminiscences (p. 179) G. V. Subbaramayya reported: ‘[Bhagavan] told me that, though she was in the form of an animal, she could understand every syllable of what we said.’

A donation of Rs 500 had been given, enough to build a small cowshed. At this point Bhagavan made a very unusual intervention:

Annamalai Swami: Chinnaswami had made an arrangement with a local mason to build a small cowshed that would cost not more than Rs 500. Bhagavan wanted a bigger cowshed…

At about 10 a.m. one morning, before the construction began, Chinnaswami organised a small inauguration ceremony on the site of his small cowshed. [
This was the function that Lakshmi brought Bhagavan to attend.] After everyone had left Bhagavan took me aside and told me that the plan must be changed.

‘Many cows will come here in the next few years,’ he said. ‘Even if we build a big cowshed, there will be so many cows that some of them will have to be kept outside. We must make a larger cowshed and you, rather than this mason, must supervise its construction.’

He took me to the corner of the ashram where the cowshed now stands and showed me where I should build it by marking lines on the ground. We didn’t measure the length of the lines but Bhagavan told me that he wanted all four walls to be forty-eight feet long…

Bhagavan often came to the cowshed to give instructions and to see what progress had been made. He even used to visit the site during the night.

Once, as we were supervising the work together, Bhagavan told me, ‘If you build this cowshed for Lakshmi, we will get all the necessary punya [merit or good karma that accrues from performing virtuous acts] to build a bookstore, a dining room and a shrine for the mother. All this will happen in due course. This will eventually become a town.’

Lakshmi herself often came to see how we were progressing with her new home. If Bhagavan were there, he would often pat her on the head and say, ‘You must wait for a few more days. The work isn’t finished yet.’

In those days Lakshmi could wander wherever she wished. Sometimes someone would take her to graze near the Samudram Lake, but mostly she stayed in the ashram. (
Living By The Words Of Bhagavan, pp. 46-7, 53)

There are several unusual aspects of this story that I feel need to be commented on since no one else has mentioned them in the published accounts of Lakshmi’s life.

Anyone who has read the preceding chapters of this book will be well aware that Bhagavan had a frugal, thrifty personality that made him complain about any kind of waste. He would, for example, pick up mustard seeds from the kitchen floor and ask that they be stored for later use; he made Annamalai Swami straighten out rusty, bent nails and reuse them even when large amounts of new nails were available; he would cut the margins of proof copies off his books and then stitch these narrow strips of paper into notebooks. In the light of these lifelong habits I find it quite remarkable that Bhagavan went over Chinnaswami’s head and ordered a massive cowshed to be built out of expensive materials. Bhagavan rarely interfered in the management of the ashram, but in this particular instance he took complete control of the cowshed project.

The ashram buildings that existed in the year that Bhagavan ordered this new cowshed had all been made out of cheap or free materials. The walls of the Mother’s samadhi had been constructed out of half-baked bricks that had been abandoned as unsaleable by the man who made them. Its roof was made of matted coconut leaves. The two other substantial buildings, the dining room and Bhagavan’s hall, had tiled roofs that were supported by mud and brick walls. These primitive buildings were a direct consequence of the ashram’s strained finances and Bhagavan’s known preference for cheap or free materials. However, when Bhagavan spoke to Annamalai Swami about the new cowshed, he declared that he wanted the building to be constructed out of dressed-granite blocks. The roof of the inner courtyard, he added, was to be supported with teak beams. (
The various dramas associated with the construction of the cowshed are narrated by Annamalai Swami in Living By The Words Of Bhagavan, pp. 46-56.) This is an extremely expensive way of building, and Bhagavan must have been aware that the ashram was not in a position to finance such a project. The scale of the building, as well as its materials, was astounding. When it was finally built, it dwarfed every other building in the ashram, being at least twice the size of the hall that Bhagavan himself received visitors in. All this was for Lakshmi. There were, it is true, a few other cows in the ashram at the time, but Bhagavan made it quite clear on several occasions that he was doing this for Lakshmi.

Why did Bhagavan suddenly abandon a lifetime of frugality and order this palatial granite-and-teak building? Lakshmi and the other cows could have managed quite well in a simple thatched building of the sort that most other people kept their cows in.

Bhagavan himself gave one answer in the conversation with Annamalai Swami that I have already reported: ‘If you build this cowshed for Lakshmi, we will get all the necessary
punya to build a bookstore, a dining room and a shrine for the mother.’

The implication of this statement is that by serving Lakshmi, the ashram would grow and prosper in a way that would not have been possible if the cowshed had been left unbuilt, or constructed on a much smaller scale.

Bhagavan’s prophecy turned out to be true. Though there were no funds for the project when the foundations were dug, by the time the building was finished the ashram was receiving so many donations for buildings, surplus funds were available to begin work on other projects such as a bookstore and an office. I should mention that constructing a building to get
punya for future projects was also a major departure for Bhagavan. His general attitude to finance was, ‘Arunachala gives us everything we need’.

The construction of the cowshed marked a turning point in the ashram’s history. Prior to its construction, ashram buildings were generally small and primitive. In the years that followed many new granite buildings were constructed: the ashram office, the Veda Patasala, the kitchen and dining room, and finally the magnificent temple erected over the
samadhi of Bhagavan’s mother. Along with the growth of these physical structures there was a corresponding increase in the flow of visitors to the ashram. Was there really a connection between Bhagavan’s decision to build this cowshed and the huge growth that followed? It may appear to be a strange claim, but when Lakshmi passed away in 1948, Bhagavan himself commented, ‘Because of her our family has grown to this extent’.

When the cowshed was finally completed, Lakshmi herself brought Bhagavan to the opening ceremony:


Devaraja Mudaliar: On the day of the laying of the foundation stone, Lakshmi walked into the presence of Sri Bhagavan shortly before the time fixed for the ceremony and led him back there, she going first and Bhagavan following. On the day of the ceremonial opening of the cowshed it was decided that she should be the first to enter. She was bathed and decorated for entering her new abode but then she slipped away and went to Bhagavan and sat down before him. She would not budge until he went too, so that he was the first to enter her new house, and she stepped in behind him. (The Cow, Lakshmi, by Devaraja Mudaliar, p. 10)

Lakshmi lived in her new home until she passed away in 1948. In the later years she came less and less to the hall, but Bhagavan visited her every day in the cowshed.

Devaraja Mudaliar has noted, ‘As with many human devotees, the constant association of the early years gradually became unnecessary and occasional visits sufficed to sustain the flow of his grace.’ (
The Cow, Lakshmi, p. 11)

I think that Lakshmi would have preferred to spend more time with Bhagavan, but in the 1940s the ashram was so crowded, it was not practical to have her charge into the hall whenever she felt like it. For the last few years of her life she had to content herself with occasional but regular visits from Bhagavan. Her final moments have been described in some detail by Suri Nagamma:

In the letter to you [Suri Nagamma’s brother] under the caption ‘Worship of the Cow’ I described to you the grandeur of Lakshmi, the queen of the cows and the amount of regard Bhagavan had for her. To that queen, as for his own mother, Bhagavan on Friday 18th [June 1948] gave videhamukti [liberation at the moment of death]. That morning when I went to the ashram I was told that Lakshmi was seriously ill and would not survive the day. So I went straight to the cowshed, without even seeing Bhagavan. The room built for the calves was vacated, cleaned and Lakshmi was given a bed of straw to lie down on. As it was Friday she was as usual decorated with turmeric paste. She had a vermilion mark on her forehead and a garland of flowers round the neck and horns. Venkataratnam [Bhagavan’s attendant] was sitting by her side, fanning her. Lakshmi was lying down with her majestic look, spreading lustre all around. She reminded me of Kamadhenu going to Kailash to do abhishekam with milk over the great Lord Siva.

When I went to Bhagavan I prostrated before him. When I got up, he looked at me with a divine look. Taking it as an order, I said I would go and stay with Lakshmi. He nodded his head in assent and I went immediately. Venkataratnam gave me the fan and left. Sitting in that place I began repeating Ramana Dwadasakshari [a twelve-lettered Ramana mantra], Ashtothram [108 names of Ramana], etc., and Lakshmi appeared to hear them carefully.

When Bhagavan came to the cowshed at 9.45 as usual he came to Lakshmi. Bhagavan sat on the hay by her side, lifted her head with both his hands and passed one of his hands lightly over her face and throat. Then, placing his left hand on the head, he began pressing with the right hand fingers her throat right down to the heart.

After pressing like that for about a quarter of an hour he said, addressing Lakshmi, ‘What do you say, mother? Do you want me to stay here alone? I could stay but what to do? All the people would be round you as in the case of my mother. Even so, why? Shall I go?’

Lakshmi remained calm, devoid of all the bonds of this world and of the pains of her body, as though she were in samadhi. Bhagavan sat there unwilling to move and with a heart full of compassion.

I was overwhelmed at the sight and exclaimed involuntarily, ‘Oh! Mother Azhagammal had the greatest luck. So has Lakshmi now.’

Bhagavan looked at me with a smile. Subramaniam came and said, ‘It seems the doctor will not be coming till 10.30 as there is no immediate danger to Lakshmi’.

‘All right. So doctor will not be coming now. Have you brought the medicine for the injection?’ asked Bhagavan.

Turning towards Lakshmi and gently stroking her head and neck, he said, ‘What do you say? May I go?’

Subbalakshmi said, ‘She will feel happy if Bhagavan is by her side’.

That is so, but what to do?’

So saying and looking into the eyes of Lakshmi, Bhagavan said, ‘What? May I go? Won’t you tell me?’

Lakshmi looked at him proudly.

What reply Bhagavan got we do not know but he got up and went away saying, ‘See that the flies do not get into the mouth’.

I assured him that we would take due care of Lakshmi and Bhagavan left the place very reluctantly.

G. V. Subbaramayya, who was also present when Lakshmi passed away, has given important additional details of Bhagavan’s final meeting with Lakshmi. I will insert his comments here before continuing with Suri Nagamma's account of Lakshmi's final moments.

On that day [18th June 1948] early in the morning Jagadiswara Sastri informed Bhagavan that Lakshmi was seriously ill. After breakfast Sri Bhagavan went to the cowshed and saw her lying prostrate and breathing hard. Sri Bhagavan sat beside her, took her head into his arms, and gently stroked her neck. He fixed his gracious gaze on her eyes. At once Lakshmi’s breathing became steady and harmonious. As their eyes met tears trickled from both. Those of us who stood close by could not contain our emotions. Nearly half an hour passed this way. It was indeed a sight for the gods.

At last Sri Bhagavan addressed her in the tenderest voice, saying, ‘Amma [Mother]. What do you want? I must now go the hall as the people there will be asking for me. But wherever I may be, I will never leave you. I will always be with you. You are all right.’ (
Sri Ramana Reminiscences, by G. V. Subbaramayya, p. 178)

Suri Nagamma: With the divine touch of Bhagavan the outer breath of Lakshmi began subsiding and the movement of the body began to decrease. When the doctor came at 10.30 and gave an injection, Lakshmi remained unaffected, as if the body was not hers. There was no death agony. Her sight was calm and clear. The doctor turned her over into the posture of Nandi, put some medicine on the boils and went away instructing us to keep some support for the head. It was 11.30 by then. Venkataratnam came back after having his meal. He asked me to hold up the head, saying he would bring some more hay. The tongue touched me and it was icy cold. The life of Lakshmi had reached the feet of Sri Ramana and was absorbed in him.

Ten minutes later Bhagavan came into the shed, saying, ‘Is it all over?’ and squatted by her side. He took her face in both his hands as though she were a little child.

Lifting it he said, ‘O Lakshmi, Lakshmi,’ and then to us, controlling his tears, he said, ‘Because of her our family has grown to this extent’.

When all were praising Lakshmi, Bhagavan asked, ‘I suppose the doctor has not troubled her much, did he? How did her life cease?’

We told him everything that happened.

‘That is all right. Did you notice this? The right ear is uppermost now. Till yesterday she was lying down on her other side. Because of the boil she was turned over to this side. So this ear had to come up. Look, in the case of people who die in Kasi [Benares], people say Lord Siva will whisper in the right ear. Lakshmi too has her right ear up.’

Bhagavan showed the ear to all people there. By that time crowds had gathered. After a quarter of an hour, Bhagavan got up and said, ‘Ramakrishna has been saying for the last ten days that a good samadhi must be built for Lakshmi’.

Bhagavan then went away to the hall. (
Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma, letter 48, 20th July 1948)

Bhagavan had brought about the liberation of both his mother and Lakshmi the cow by destroying the vasanas, the mental tendencies and desires that would have otherwise resulted in a rebirth. He accomplished this by placing one of his hands on the heart-centres of these devotees as their death was approaching. Suri Nagamma seems to have discussed this process with Bhagavan soon after he succeeded with Lakshmi:

When Palaniswami, an early disciple, was in the last throes of death, Bhagavan thought of giving him mukti [liberation]. He placed his hands on the heart and the head, but the strength of his vasanas was so intense, they could not get dissolved… In the case of his mother some years later, Bhagavan similarly placed his hands on the heart and the head, and as the vasanas gradually subsided, he continued to keep his hands there until life was completely extinct. His efforts at giving mukti to mother succeeded. In the case of Lakshmi the cow, Bhagavan often told us that all the past incidents in life welled up in the same manner as in the case of the mother, but they subsided ultimately, which did not happen in the case of Palaniswami.

When I pointed out that Bhagavan was not with Lakshmi till she breathed her last as in the case of the mother, he said, ‘Oh that! What desires did Lakshmi have after all? Only if there are desires in plenty, will they remain till the end.’

So what Bhagavan wanted us to understand was that Lakshmi the cow, being an animal, had no vasanas like us human beings. (
Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma, p. 124)

I would differ from Suri Nagamma on this point. I think that Lakshmi’s lack of vasanas was not because she was a cow, it was because her devotion and surrender to Bhagavan had erased them all.

There was much speculation in Ramanasramam that Lakshmi was the reincarnation of Keeraipatti, an old woman who fed Bhagavan for several years when he lived at Virupaksha Cave and Skandashram. Keerai is a Tamil term for edible leaves such as spinach and Patti, meaning grandmother, is a respectful form of address for elderly women.

Bhagavan never publicly confirmed or denied that Lakshmi was the reincarnation of Keeraipatti, but he was happy to pass on this theory to visitors and devotees. Writing in 1930, when Lakshmi had not yet moved to Ramanasramam, B. V. Narasimha Swami wrote: ‘Maharshi sometimes informs those present of her history and quotes with evident approval the theory of his devotees that Lakshmi is the present incarnation of Keeraipatti.’ (
Self-Realization, by B. V. Narasimha Swami, 1993 ed., pp. 165-6)

After Lakshmi’s liberation in 1948, Devaraja Mudaliar wrote a short pamphlet that became the official ashram history of Lakshmi the cow. It was read and approved by Bhagavan prior to its publication. This is what Mudaliar had to say about the link between Lakshmi and Keeraipatti:

Lakshmi’s great devotion and the possessive way in which she would always approach Bhagavan, along with the great kindness and attention he showed her, convinced many of the devotees that there was some special bond between them. Many of us felt that although Lakshmi now wore the form of a cow, she must have attached herself to Bhagavan and won his grace by love and surrender in her previous birth. It seemed hard to explain in any other way the great solicitude and tenderness that Bhagavan always showed in his dealings with her. Because, although he was all love and kindness and had solicitude for all, he was normally very undemonstrative. The open expressions of his grace that Lakshmi used to receive from him were quite exceptional…

Bhagavan never definitely stated that Lakshmi was Keeraipatti. Nevertheless, the belief was supported by various remarks he made spontaneously or in unguarded moments when the circumstances gave rise to them… No one can quote any open statement by Bhagavan about Lakshmi and ‘the old lady of the greens’ although many who heard Bhagavan refer to the two on various occasions felt almost certain that they were the same. They felt that the great devotion of the old lady had caused her to return in this humble guise to work out her remaining karma at the feet of Bhagavan. (
The Cow, Lakshmi, by Devaraja Mudaliar, pp. 11-12)

A few days after Lakshmi’s liberation Bhagavan himself told the story of Keeraipatti’s years of service to him:

At three o’clock this afternoon in Bhagavan’s presence we were again talking about Lakshmi when a devotee said, ‘It seems Arunachalam Pillai [Lakshmi’s original owner] purchased Lakshmi not at Kannamangalam but at Gudiyatham.’

Hearing that Bhagavan said, ‘This was also Keeraipatti’s town’.

That devotee asked, ‘When exactly did she come to this place?’

With a smile Bhagavan began telling us her history. ‘I myself do not know. Even when I was in the Arunachaleswara Temple [in the 1890s] she was staying on the hill and was visiting me now and then. But it was only after I went to Virupaksha Cave that she began coming to me frequently. She was then living in the Guhai Namasivaya mantapam. At that time the mantapam was not as well maintained as it is at present. It had only a wooden door and a wooden latch. She had no other articles apart from an earthen pot. She used first to prepare hot water in it, bathe and then cook vegetables and rice in it. She had only one pot for preparing whatever she wanted. She used to go out before sunrise, wander about the hill and bring back some special leaves that were useful for cooking as vegetables. She used to cook them tastefully, bring me about a handful and persuade me to eat. She never failed to do so even once. Sometimes I used to help her in cooking by going to her place and cutting the vegetables. She had great confidence in me. She used to go to town daily, obtain rice, flour, dhal and the like by begging at various houses. She would store them in a big open-mouthed earthen jar.

‘Once in a while she used to prepare gruel with that flour and dhal and bring it with the vegetable curry saying, “Swami, Swami, yesterday one good lady gave me a little flour. I have made some gruel, Swami.”

‘She believed that I knew nothing. When she was not there I used to open the doors of that mantapam and find several varieties of foodstuffs in the jar. But then she had absolute confidence in me. She did not allow anyone else into that mantapam. When she could not find any vegetables, she used to sit there depressed. On such occasions I used to climb the tamarind tree, pluck some tender leaves and give them to her. She was thus somehow supplying me food every day. She never used to take anything herself.

‘She used to bring all sorts of curries, saying, “Swami likes that”.

She had great devotion and attention. Even at eighty years of age she used to wander about all over the hill. She was living there on the hill even before I went there.’

Was she not afraid of anything?’ I asked.

Bhagavan said, ‘No, what had she to be afraid of? You know what happened one day? I went to Skandashram and stayed for the night. Palaniswami was in Virupaksha Cave. At midnight a thief got into her place and was trying to get away with things when she woke up and cried out, “Who is that?”

‘The thief put his hand over her mouth but she somehow managed to shout at the top of her voice, “O Annamalai! Thief! Thief!”

‘Her cries could be heard even at Skandashram where I was.

I shouted back, “Here I am! I am coming! Who is that?”

‘So saying, I ran down as quickly as I could. On the way at Virupaksha Cave I asked Palaniswami about it and he said, “I heard some shouting from the cave of the old woman but I thought she was mumbling something”.

‘Some people were living at Mango Tree Cave and Jadaswami Cave but no one appears to have heard her cries.’

‘The cries were heard by the one that had to hear them and Arunachala himself responded to her call,’ I said.

Nodding his assent, Bhagavan continued: ‘Hearing my shouting, the thief ran away. We both [Bhagavan and Palaniswami] went to her, asked her where the thief was and, as there was no one there, we laughed, saying that it was all imagination.

She said, “No, swami. When he was removing things I challenged him and so he put his hands over my mouth to prevent me from shouting. I somehow managed to shout at the top of my voice. It was perhaps you who said that you were coming. He heard that and ran away.”

‘There was no light there, so we lit a piece of firewood and searched the whole place. We found the jar. Around it several small odds and ends were scattered about. We realised then that it was a fact.’

I said, ‘Her belief in God was profound. Hers is not an ordinary birth, but a birth with a purpose.’ Bhagavan merely nodded his head and was silent. (
Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma, letter 51, 25th July 1948)

Bhagavan also narrated Keeraipatti’s history in 1946, including a few extra details that are not included in Suri Nagamma’s account:

Keeraipatti was already living in the big temple in the town when I first went there. She stayed at the Subramaniam shrine in the temple and used to feed the sadhus. Later she began bringing food to me from a Kammala [blacksmith caste] lady, but after some time the Kammala lady began to bring the food herself instead of sending it through Keeraipatti. At that time Keeraipatti had matted locks. Later, when I went to live in the Virupaksha Cave, she was staying in Guhai Namasivaya temple and had shaved off her hair. She lived in the mantapam and she used to worship the image of Namasivaya and other images carved on its walls and pillars. The priest would come and do puja to the image in the temple, but she used to worship the images on the walls of the mantapam where she stayed and offer food to them.

When she got up in the morning she would go out for a walk on the small hill and from there to where our ashram is now and then on to Skandashram and back to where she was staying. On the way she would collect fuel and cow dung and carry them on a bundle on her back and hip. She would also gather all kinds of green leaves for cooking… She would offer the food to the images on the walls and pillars and then come and give it to me, and only afterwards would she go and eat some herself. In the evening she would go into the town to beg and there was not a house in the town she did not know.

…She was very much attached to me. I sometimes used to go with her and help her gather her leaves and vegetables, for instance from the drumstick tree. Sometimes I also helped in cleaning and preparing the vegetables for cooking, and then I would stay and eat with her. She died before we came here, that is before 1922. She was buried just near here, under a tamarind tree, opposite the Dakshinamurti Shrine.

Taken from The Cow, Lakshmi, by Devaraja Mudaliar, pp. 12-14. An almost identical account can be found in Day By Day With Bhagavan, 26th January 1946.

A visitor to the ashram wanted to know how such a good devotee as Keeraipatti could have been reborn as a cow.

Question [Rani Mazumdar]: It is said that the old lady Keeraipatti was born as Lakshmi. How can one who had the unique good fortune of serving Bhagavan well and lovingly, have to be born again at all and even if she had to be reborn, how could she be born as a cow? Is it not said in all our books that birth as a human being is the best birth one can have?

Bhagavan: I have never said Keeraipatti had been born as a cow.

I [Devaraja Mudaliar] said, ‘I have already told Rani so, but she says, “It has been said and also written down in so many books and articles and Bhagavan has not denied it. So we can take it as the truth.”’

I added, ‘But she puts the question on the assumption that the cow is the old woman reborn, whether Bhagavan has said so or not, and she desires an answer’.

Thereupon Bhagavan said, ‘It is not true that birth as a man is necessarily the highest, and that one must attain realisation only from being a man. Even an animal can attain Self-realisation.


In the conversation that followed on this, Bhagavan said, ‘Even as a young calf, Lakshmi behaved in an extraordinary way. She would daily come to me and place her head at my feet. On the day the foundation was laid for the gosala [cowshed], she was so jubilant, she came and took me for the function. Again on the day of the grihapravesam [opening ceremony] she came straight to me at the time appointed and took me. In so many ways and on so many occasions she has behaved in such a sensible and extremely intelligent way that one cannot but regard her as an extraordinary cow. What are we to say about it?’ (
Day By Day With Bhagavan, 2nd September 1946)

Shortly after Lakshmi’s liberation another devotee asked Bhagavan about the possibility of animals realising the Self. It seems to have been an issue that bothered some of the devotees. It should be noted that when Bhagavan gave the previous answer in 1946, Lakshmi had not yet attained mukti. Her liberation in 1948 provided ample vindication of Bhagavan’s answer.

One of the devotees who yesterday heard of the verse written by Bhagavan about the deliverance of Lakshmi approached him this morning and said, ‘We ourselves see that animals and birds are getting deliverance [moksha] in your presence; but is it not true that only human beings can get moksha?’

‘Why? It is stated that a mahapurusha [great saint] gave moksha to a thorn bush,’ said Bhagavan with a smile. (
Letters from and Recollections of Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma, letter dated 21st July 1948)

Bhagavan then gave a detailed narration of the story, which is to be found in Chidambara Mahatmyam, a history of the great spiritual events that are associated with the Chidambaram Temple.

Lakshmi was buried in the ashram and a samadhi was constructed over her body. Suri Nagamma has given a lengthy description of the event:

Thinking of Lakshmi all the time today, we had our usual meal and some rest. When at 2.30 p.m. I went to the cowshed, Bhagavan was already there. We went and saw the body of Lakshmi. The face did not show any sign of death. We came back to the hall and sat down. Till evening Bhagavan was telling us stories about Lakshmi and was giving instructions to the people concerned about the arrangements for the burial.

‘It was the same thing in the case of the Mother. Until the abhishekam [ceremonial washing of the body] was done, the lustre of the face did not fade. The body could hardly be seen from under the garlands and camphor that were thrown upon it by people from time to time. There were bhajans, nadaswaram music, etc. all round. We brought the body down at night and kept it under the bodhi tree with the intention of burying it somewhere near the Pali tank before daybreak. There was, however, some delay in bringing bricks and slaked lime for constructing the tomb. Meanwhile many people gathered round and put up a big show. On the tenth day even shops were newly opened. Just see all the things that will happen now.’

Feeling that Bhagavan was giving undue importance to Lakshmi’s burial, one of the devotees, Govindarajula Subbarao, said, ‘We see many instances here of animals getting deliverance more often than human beings. Bhagavan has told us several times that they come here to work out the balance of their karma. It looks as if they are better looked after by Bhagavan than we are.’

Bhagavan remarked, ‘Will it be possible to say so in all instances? Is anybody making all these arrangements deliberately? And do we have the money for all that? When the time comes people spontaneously take up the work and all the required articles come in automatically. The work is done in a trice. Sadasiva Iyer came here the day before yesterday. Perhaps he has come here specially for this purpose. He knows the full details of erecting a tomb. He is there now on the spot giving all the directions. He says he will go away tomorrow. It is individual luck. What can we do? If it were an ordinary animal, the butcher would drag it away. For this Lakshmi a tomb is going to be erected on a scale equal to that of a mahatma. Look at this white peacock. How many peacocks have come and gone? They are different from this one. This one goes about meekly and mixes freely with all people. Where is Baroda [where the peacock came from] and where is Arunachala? It was born there and has come here. Who wanted it?’ said Bhagavan.

Many devotees believed that this peacock was the reincarnation of Madhava Swami, one of Bhagavan’s long-serving attendants. Annamalai Swami (Living By The Words Of Bhagavan, pp. 89-90) has given some of the reasons why this theory was believed:

‘There were one or two circumstantial indications which convinced many people that Madhava Swami had indeed been reborn as this peacock. Whenever it came to the hall, the peacock would make a point of inspecting the books on the bookshelves. Looking after the library there was one of Madhava Swami’s daily chores. He also repaired or rebound any books that were damaged. When the peacock came on its inspection tour, it would often peck at the books that Madhava Swami had rebound, but not touch any of the others. Another piece of circumstantial evidence came from the fact that Madhava Swami was something of a misogynist, so much so that he would often make rude remarks when women came into the hall. The peacock retained this trait by refusing to have anything to do with any of the peahens which also lived in the ashram. I have one little story of my own to add to the evidence. When Madhava Swami used to visit my house, he would always sit on a concrete bench near the door. In later years the white peacock also visited me occasionally. Each time it came it would sit in Madhava Swami’s place on the bench.’

Bhagavan himself occasionally addressed the peacock as
Madhava’, although he would never say outright that Madhava Swami had returned in a peacock body. In Sri Ramana Reminiscences, for example, G. V. Subbaramayya reported (p. 166) that when the peacock pecked at the strings of a veena, Bhagavan told the musician who had just used it, ‘Madhava wants you to repeat the song’.

As Bhagavan himself noted, many peacocks came and went, but this particular one stayed and mingled freely with the human devotees, a good indication that it had a destiny to fulfil at the ashram.
Suri Nagamma now continues with her account of Lakshmi's burial:

Towards the hill and near the dispensary the tombs of a deer, a crow and a dog were erected long ago. Now a pit was dug near them and the work for the construction of the tomb was begun.

All was ready by six p.m. People came in large crowds. Some of them even sat on the compound wall. The sarvadhikari brought the body of Lakshmi in a wooden cart. Bhagavan came and sat on a chair. Lakshmi’s body was placed opposite to him. Devotees brought water in pots and poured it over the body of Lakshmi. After that, abhishekam was done with milk, curds, ghee, sugar and rose water. Incense was burnt, a silk cloth was placed over the body, the face was smeared with turmeric powder and vermilion, and the body was covered with flower garlands. Sugar candy was offered and arati was performed. Lakshmi’s face beamed with beauty and charm when she was decorated in this way.

At about 7 p.m. devotees lowered the body of Lakshmi into the grave with cries of ‘Hara Hara Mahadev [one of the names of Siva]!’ Bhagavan was visibly affected. After Bhagavan had touched some holy leaves, they were thrown onto Lakshmi by the sarvadhikari. After that, devotees sprinkled turmeric and vermilion powder camphor, holy ashes, sandal paste, flowers and salt. Finally, earth was thrown in to fill the grave. After the burial was over, Bhagavan came back to the hall and prasad was then distributed. The whole thing ended like a marriage festival. Lakshmi the cow is no longer in the cowshed. She has been freed from the bonds of the body and is now merged in the lustrous Atman of Sri Ramana. (
Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, letter 49, 20th July 1948)

Later that evening Bhagavan composed an epitaph in Tamil verse that confirmed Lakshmi’s liberation. G. V. Subbaramayya noted, ‘It was a unique honour to the cow. Sri Bhagavan observed that he had not sung like this even at his mother’s demise.’ (Sri Ramana Reminiscences, by G. V. Subbaramayya, p. 178)

The concluding comment after the verse comes from Devaraja Mudaliar.
On Friday, the 5th of Ani, in the bright fortnight, in Sukla Paksham, on dvadasi in visaka nakshatra in sarvadhari year [that is, on 18th June 1948] the cow Lakshmi attained mukti.

On my next visit to the ashram, after the tomb was finished, I read the stanza and asked Bhagavan whether the use of the word vimukti [liberation] was just conventional, as when we say that someone has attained samadhi, meaning that he has died, or whether it really meant nirvana. He replied that it meant nirvana. (The Cow, Lakshmi, p. 34)

All the references I have given from Letters from Sri Ramanasramam state that Lakshmi died on 18th July 1948. These are misprints since all the other sources, including Bhagavan's own verse commemorating Lakshmi's liberation, state that the date was 18th June 1948.

44 comments:

Nandu Narasimhan said...

David,

Please do give the link of the Facebook group. We all know that you will not comment there, but we always can.

Nandu Narasimhan

David Godman said...

It's a place called My Friends' Notes, a place you should be familiar with since I saw a post from you there on the Formula One season. Look for posts by Suryanarayana Raju. There is one on Lakshmi the Cow, and a more recent one that features words allegedly uttered by Bhagavan in his dying days. Both originate in talks that Osho gave, and both, in my opinion, are highly inaccurate. I have made my views known in the comments section of both posts.

Anonymous said...

David, Thankyou for the beautiful article on Lakshmi the cow.
Even though I have read stories. about the extraordinary events that took place between Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmi before, I never tire of reading about the magic of it all.
Yes there is a strong but fleeting presence in Tiruvannamalai of Osho devotees coming from Puna, usually on the way to Goa.
What a shame that there is all this misinformation about the life of Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Nandu Narasimhan said...

I cannot see 'My Friends' Notes' on your Facebook page.

David Godman said...

I don't have a link on my page. I was tagged by Suryanarayana Raju as someone who should receive these two posts, so they showed up as notifications in my email inbox.

The address at the top of Suryanarayana Raju's page is:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=384615861864&comments=#!/Arunachalasiva

summa said...

David, There is always the deepest gratitude and respect, for the honesty, integrity and scholarship one finds in your writings........ so rare these days. If not for you, so much, of inestimable value, would have been lost.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The Osho story on Lakshmi and Bhagavan is totally laughable. Osho was deliberately misleading people with crap such as 'Naturally, very few people were benefited by him.'.
'He was not a master' - This alone tells me that Rajneesh was a quack.
'There was no explanation in it. His literature is confined to two, three small booklets.' - Meaning there are only 2 or 3 books that I have read and I couldn't understand any of the explanations in the books.
'People came and went, new people came, but the cow remained constant' - People come and go, but their stupidity in believing 'masters' like Rajneesh remains constant.
'it is almost impossibly rare for animals to become enlightened' - Wait, I thought Osho was enlightened!? Oh I get it, what an impossibly rare feat Osho has accomplished!
'she has bypassed the whole world of humanity' - thank goodness for that because the chances are that as a human, she would have been exposed to Osho's 'teachings'.
'So once in a while — there are a few instances only' Damn! If only Osho were alive..I would have loved to have heard his stories about the other FEW instances it has happened.

Ravi said...

David/Friends,
Wonder whether 'inaccurate' is a euphemism.How to reconcile this Joke!(Excerpt):
“Maharishi Raman attained to enlightenment through death. He was only seventeen or eighteen and suddenly he felt he was dying. He was doing meditations; he must have unknowingly hit his hara. He was so absorbed in his meditation that he had left home and escaped and was sitting near a temple. The temple was dirty as indian temples are; there were flies and dogs everywhere. He was sitting there, hungry for many days, and all over his body were flies. Dogs were barking and children playing nearby -- the indian village scene.

And then suddenly he felt that he was dying, but he accepted it. It was okay: if one was dying, one was dying. He relaxed into death; his body fell down. A crowd gathered and they thought that this boy was dead. And what was happening inside was of tremendous value, ultimate value. Ramana saw his body disappearing. That's where you came very close to. But he accepted and you rejected. Then he saw his mind disappearing -- but he accepted it. And then a smile came over his face. The body disappeared, the mind disappeared and he was still there! Nothing had died! So he opened his eyes and laughed!”
- Don't Just Do Something, Sit There, Chapter #2
-----------------------------------
Here is another joke-on Sri Ramakrishna:
"“It is said about Ramkrishna that he was much too interested in food; in fact obsessed. That is very unlikely. Even his wife, Sharada, used to feel very embarrassed; because he was such a great saint, only with one flaw -- and the flaw was that he was much too interested in food. He was interested so much that while he was giving satsang to his disciples, just in the middle he will say, "Wait, I am coming," and he will go to look into the kitchen, what is being cooked. He will just go there and ask, "What is being prepared today?" and then will come back and start his satsang again.

His closest disciples became worried. They said, "This doesn't look good, Paramhansa. And everything is so perfectly beautiful -- never has there walked such a beautiful and perfect man -- but this small thing, why can't you drop it?" He will laugh and will not say anything.

One day his wife Sharada insisted too much. He said, "Okay, if you insist, I will tell. My prarabdha is finished; and I am just clinging with this food. If I drop that I am gone."
-----------------------------------

Makes one wonder!O(h!)SHO(w!)!What a show!

For more jokes, you may read more intimate accounts of Sri Bhagavan by Osho:
http://www.oshoworld.com/osho_now/speaks_mystics.asp#rama

Namaskar.

Anonymous said...

His story is fascinating reading, starting with a brief reference to his father's dismissal from an official post and early death, which left Hui-neng and his mother in dire poverty. Selling firewood to survive, he one day heard a man reciting a sutra, whereupon his mind at once became enlightened. This may seem far-fetched, but the twentieth century Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi said that there are two kinds of ignorance: forgetfulness of the Self, and obstruction to the knowledge of the Self. The first kind only needs to hear the Truth one time in order to be dispelled, while the more common kind needs to have the Truth repeated over and over until doubt and wrong identity are dispelled.

Anonymous said...

As for Osho and he was known to have joke writers working for him. He had to be seen as clever and witty ;above all amusing lest the devotees get bored. So I guess a cow is a ruminant mammal, supposedly.

Anonymous said...

You can now see first hand all the nonsense written about Ramana Maharshi, even after everything was written down meticulously whilst he was alive.
Imagine all the embroidery about the life of Jesus Christ. The Romanisation of the teaching taking it away from its Middle Eastern roots. The uneven messages from the various gospels. I believe nothing was written down till approx 70 years after Jesus died. Then St Peter and the beginning of the Catholic church and the cult of the Popes.
The core of the Christian church and its need to proselytise.
I can only relate to the Sermon on the Mount. As far as I'm concerned he rest of the new testament is more then likely tainted and large sections untrue.

Nandu Narasimhan said...

After many bouts of anger, I have decided to follow the essence of Bhagavan's response to Perumal Swami's spiteful 'biography' of Bhagavan, from 'Living By The Words of Bhagavan'.

Sriram said...

Dear All,

From whatever I have read about Bhagawan, he has been extremely kind to all animals. I was just wondering whether he has said anything about eating meat? Could someone please clarify?

Sriram

Losing M. Mind said...

The thing that is most striking and moving to me about the lakshmi story, is not kindness to animals. While Maharshi was evidently kind to animals, it's noteable that he didn't seem too excited about having a cow early on. The thing that is striking to me, moving, is the harrowing path of sadhana. I mean, the thing that stuck out to me, was after having spent time with Bhagavan, there was that incident where Lakshmi had been abused??? I didn't quite follow what had happened to her. That makes sense to me, because as one turns towards the Self, in the form of being around a radiant sage like Ramana Maharshi, to go out into the world becomes increasibly perilous, and the choice more stark. Lakshmi, the Cow, sought refuge in Maharshi, and after that incident, it seemed like recognized that peace, safety, happiness was in Maharshi's presence. Something I'm learning, that peace is in the grace of the guru, the presence of the guru, adn this world is a perilous dangerous place that ends in death for the body, and the one identified with it. Lakshmi went from being like us, really irresponsible (messing up the garden), and then after that harrowing incident, never left Maharshi's presence. It does make sense that for an animal to become Maharshi's presence the must have done alot of work to surrender themselves.

Losing M. Mind said...

And also Lakshmi seemed to recognize that Maharshi was her refuge in a way that many of us don't. There is something quite amazing to me, about how much her story is the same as the humans who were in earnest. It was like after that incident, she realized, O.K. I get it, I need to stick around you. And then her behavior as well became in accord with that, for instance, that she led Bhagavan to the shed built for her. Her behavior was totally attuned to Maharshi's grace. She was in Nirvikalpa because of her throwing herself at Bhagavan's feet so to speak. Probably the reason David Godman posted this in a sense, is that Lakshmi's story is so instructive about surrender.

Ravi said...

Sriram/Friends,
Sri Bhagavan's recommendation is very clear:
D.: Is it not killing life to prepare meat diet?

M.: Ahimsa stands foremost in the code of discipline for the yogis.

D.: Even plants have life.

M.: So too the slabs you sit on!

D.: May we gradually get ourselves accustomed to vegetarian food?

M.: Yes. That is the way.

~ Talk 22, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

For more ,please visit:
http://bhagavan-ramana.org/diet.html

Namaskar.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Ramana encouraged one and all to be vegetarian. Nevertheless Devaraja Mudaliar a close devotee and meat eater was gently persuaded by Ramana to become vegetarian and assured him that his health would not suffer.

Anonymous said...

Perumal Swami is a tragic story that did not end well. Many years later when he was down and out Ramana sent help his way without the knowledge of Chinna Swami.
In addition to comments about misinformation on teachers and religion I have to mention Hans Kung, a Christian theologian, he is currently out of favour with the Vatican. Kung states that while the New Testament does contain nuggets of probable fact, each one has to be dug out from a quagmire of religious mythology.

David Godman said...

The account I have posted here was published in 2002. I attempted to include all the stories about Lakshmi that were available. Some time after the account was published a new story came to light when Rangan's youngest daughter (then blind and about eighty years old) was interviewed in Chennai about her recollections of Bhagavan.

She said that she remembered Lakshmi coming into the hall in 1939 and standing in front of Bhagavan.

Bhagavan looked at her for some time and then turned to his attendant and said, 'Lakshmi has come to complain that she has not received her iddlies this morning. Can you find out why she didn't get any today.'

Bhagavan mentioned in the account I posted that Lakshmi could understand what he and other people were saying. It is clear from this exchange that he could also understand what thoughts were going on in Lakshmi's mind.

A kitchen worker arrived and explained that there had been a shortage of iddlies that morning, and that Lakshmi had been given other food instead.

Bhagavan then asked, 'Are there no iddlies left at all?'

The kitchen worker said, 'One man has gone to town to do some work there. We are saving four for when he returns. He didn't eat before he left.'

Bhagavan said, 'Take two of those and give them to Lakshmi. She will not be happy unless she gets an iddly. When the worker returns, give him something else to eat in addition to the two iddlies you are saving.'

The two iddlies were produced; Bhagavan fed them to Lakshmi in the hall, after which she returned to the cowshed.

kandhan said...

David, will you please post similar accounts of other animals associated with Bhagavan too ( or have you already done it in the blog)?

David Godman said...

A Bangalore devotee, Mukta, brought out a book last year that contained all the known animal stories connected with Bhagavan. It has just gone out of print. A new edition is being printed under the title 'Bhagavan, Friend of all Creation'. I don't know if the book will be available for download on the ashram's site, but it should be in the ashram bookstore in about a month's time.

Sankar Ganesh Chandrakumar said...

It is my humble feeling and opinion that almost all animals as well as mature devotees were able to recognize and experience the power of bhagavan's presence from their very first encounter/meeting/interaction itself.

While for the majority others it took some time as their minds had to undergo purification (by the power of bhagavan's presence itself) from the clouding strong worldly vasanas.

Thanks. Sankar Ganesh.

Nandu Narasimhan said...

David,

I remember reading a story in 'The Power of the Presence' series about Bhagavan feeding a monkey, a squirrel and a goat.

Would it be possible for you to post that extract here? It is one of the most moving episodes involving Bhagavan and animals.

Nandu

David Godman said...

NAndu

Are you sure you are remembering the right book? I don't remember the story, and there is no mention of such a story in any of the three indexes.

Nandu Narasimhan said...

Sorry, David.

Got things a bit mixed up. It was from 'Moments Remembered', if I remember right.

Will try and post that extract in a few days.

Nandu

Upekkha said...

@ Nandu Narasimhan

found something at this website>

Ravi said...

Friends,
This is a subject very dear to me.Here is an excerpt from Ramana Leela:
There seems to be a natural affinity between monkeys
and humans. Recall how the monkeys assisted Sri Rama in the Ramayana.Bhagavan was able to converse with monkeys and after a close observation of their ways discovered that they had a social and political structure or hierarchy. On several occasions the monkeys would go to the Maharshi with their disputes for arbitration. He would patiently
listen to them and effect reconciliation among the
contending parties.
A monkey-chief once bit an infant monkey which fainted. Taking it to be dead the monkey group left it there and went away. A little later the infant regained
consciousness and made its way to Bhagavan's ashram. As it was limping, the ashramites referred to it as Nondi (the Lame one). Nondi was nursed back to normalcy. On one occasion the group of monkeys to which Nondi belonged
passed by the ashram and took him back into their group.
This was unusual because monkeys generally avoid anyone of their clan who had contact with human beings. Nondi was a frequent visitor to the ashram and he would take quite a few liberties with Bhagavan. Nondi was quick to
take offence; he was meticulously clean in his ways. Once,
when Nondi spilled some rice on the ground the Maharshi
scolded him. Immediately Nondi slapped him near the eye. As a punishment, the Maharshi became very cold towards Nondi for some days. But Nondi pleaded with
him and found his way back to the Maharshi's lap.
On an earlier occasion also Nondi had misbehaved.The Maharshi was once blowing hot milk to be given to Nondi but the latter thought that the Maharshi was going
to sip the milk and slapped him. Soon after realising his
mistake Nondi repented and got back into Bhagavan's good books. On that occasion Bhagavan was not hurt badly and that helped Nondi's quick rehabilitation.
Making fun of Nondi, Bhagavan once said to him "You should not forget us when you become the Chief." By a
strange coincidence Nondi did become the Chief of their
group bypassing three senior members. Nondi was keen
on being anointed in Bhagavan's presence and went to
the ashram with his retinue but not finding him there
spoilt all the trees of the ashram.
On his return, the Maharshi noticed the havoc and wondered why Nondi and his gang did what they had done. The next day Nondi visited the ashram but instead
of climbing on to the lap of Bhagavan, as he usually did,
climbed up a tree and shook a branch — a privilege enjoyed
only by a Chief of a group. On seeing that, the Maharshi
guessed that Nondi had become a Chief. After that Nondi came down and sat on the Maharshi's lap. Thereafter Nondi's predecessor in office came up and paid homage to Nondi.
This confirmed Bhagavan's guess. At mealtime Nondi sat beside Bhagavan but refused to touch the food and walked away. Surprised at this, the Maharshi followed him. Nondi went and sat among his subjects, with his queens sitting
closeby. (Among monkeys the queens of the previous king
continued to retain their status even under the new regime).
It became clear that Nondi would not partake of any meal
without his subjects also being served. So, the ashramites,
arranged a `royal banquet' for Nondi.A little later due to the machinations of his minister
Nondi lost his position and began living apart from his group with his progeny.
-----continued-------------

Ravi said...

Friends,
Sri Bhagavan and Monkeys...Continued...
"Two months after the Maharshi left Skandasramam and settled down at Ramanasramam,
Nondi came searching for him and continued to visit him every fortnight.
Once, an old monkey-chief became sick. He left his group and stood outside the Virupaksha cave. On coming to know this the Maharshi went out to look him up. He
also noticed that two previous Chiefs who were expelled by that monkey were on two nearby branches grieving for their erstwhile Chief. The Maharshi took the sick one inside the ashram and nursed him but to no avail. While
the old monkey was about to die the other two let out a
cry of agony. The Maharshi arranged for the burial of the
dead monkey with all honours due to a sannyasin.
It is said that monkeys have little gratitude. But the
experience of the Maharshi was different as may be seen from this incident: The Maharshi and his disciples set out
on giripradakshina on a hot day. By the time they reached
the vicinity of Pachaiamman Kovil at midday they were
tired and thirsty. A group of monkeys who noticed this,
climbed on to a nearby tree which bore a number of juicy
fruits and shook the branches. As a result, a number of
fruits fell on the ground. The group of monkeys left the
spot leaving the Maharshi and his party to enjoy the fruits.
Possibly, the group of monkeys had received the Maharshi's
hospitality earlier and it was their way of reciprocating.
-----------------------------------
Namaskar

Ravi said...

Friends,
An Excerpt from Ramana Leela:
When Ramana moved to the hill his only human companion was Palaniswami. Some others joined him
about whom we have scanty information. Even they served
Bhagavan and were suitably rewarded. We shall now turn
our attention to them, some of them were animals.
According to Bhagavan those animals also were jivas who
sought refuge in his ashram to work off their karma and
therefore were not inferior to human beings. The Maharshi
always would refer to the animals as `he' or `she' but never
as `it.' Both humans and animals who stayed with the Maharshi constituted his `family.' Obviously, therefore, even the Maharshi had `family responsibilities.' Just as in
any family the younger members were particularly taken care of, even in the Maharshi's `family' the voiceless members were looked after with great care. The Maharshi took care of the food, bath and bed of these `children.' Great care was taken if any of these `children' fell ill. Also, appropriate functions were conducted in connection with
the delivery, wedding or funeral of any of the animals.
--------continued---------------

Ravi said...

Friends,
Sri Bhagavan and the Animal Sadhaks Continued...
FAMILY OF DOGS:

Kamala was the founder of the family of dogs, a family
which was fairly large. The Maharshi knew the members
of the different generations and each one of them bore a
name. For facility we shall refer to them as 1, 2, 3 etc. The
descendants of Kamala included Neela, Jack and Rose. A
little before Kamala's end Bhagavan asked Rose to go and
look her up. After Kamala passed away he consoled Rose.

Chinna Karuppan: This dog was dark-skinned and
came to be known as the Dark one (Karuppan), Karuppan
was very fastidious. He would generally keep aloof and
not mix with other dogs. He would stay close to the
Virupaksha cave amidst bushes. Noticing his aloofness
the ashramites would serve him his food at a short distance
from him. However, one day as the Maharshi was on his
way to Skandasramam, Karuppan leapt up and wound
himself round the Maharshi's feet and played with great
joy. Thenceforth he became a member of the ashram.

Karuppan was intelligent, large-hearted and sensitive.At the ashram he mixed freely with the other members
and played about with them. He even tried to play with
those who were orthodox and resented any dog. On one occasion, Karuppan went near a Brahmin,
who was performing japa, little knowing that it was prohibited. The disturbed Brahmin hit the dog with a stick.
After that incident Karuppan never again stepped into the
ashram. Extremely sensitive as he was, Karuppan disappeared
altogether from the sight of those who slighted him. On an earlier occasion, a similar incident had occurred. On a rainy night, Palaniswami was rude towards
Karuppan who at once left the place and lay on a bag of
coals at Skandasramam. He did not return to the Virupaksha cave till he was specially invited.
Palaniswami also scolded a pup once who thereupon jumped into a water tank and killed himself. On that very day, Bhagavan had told his disciples that those animals
came to live with him to work off their karma and that they should be respected. Yet sometimes his disciples did not follow his precept and were insensitive.On several occasions, the dogs Kamala and Seguppan were ordered by Bhagavan to take new visitors to different shrines and teerthas, which they did.
---------continued---------------

Ravi said...

Friends,
Sri Bhagavan and Jacki,The Dog,an excerpt from Ramana Leela:
Jacki: This dog was both intelligent and obedient.
Once the Maharshi set out on giripradakshina with his
disciples by a short-route across the hill. He asked Jacki to
go down the hill to the town. Accordingly, Jack left and
was sighted by the Maharshi on its way down. Midway on
their walk the Maharshi changed course and walked down
the hill. As they were descending, Jack was returning from
the town. The Maharshi then directed Jack to go back to
the ashram. Though reluctant to leave Bhagavan's company,
as an obedient fellow, Jack went back to the ashram. Jack
was soft and austere in his ways. His daily routine was like
this: early in the morning he would visit a devadasi's (temple
dancer's) house for breakfast and then go to a priest's house
to accompany him to the shrine at Guha Namassivaya.
After that he would go to Virupaksha cave for Bhagavan's
darshan and later to a resting place nearby. Around 9.30 in
the morning he would visit the shrine at Guha Namassivaya
for prasadam and get back to his place of rest. Again by
evening he would visit the devadasi's house for food. After
supper he would go to a math to keep company with the
priest. To the extent possible he would spend his time in
the vicinity of Arunachaleswara, much like a yogi.

In 1905 - 1906 when the plague broke out in the
town most of the inhabitants of Tiruvannamalai left the
place leaving it deserted. Leopards roamed about the streets
during daytime. Bhagavan and some of his disciples stayed,
at Pachaiamman Kovil during that period. Jack did not stay with Bhagavan but stayed with the priest at Guha Namassivaya. After sometime he left the place never to be
seen again.
The Maharshi looked upon the animals as sadhus.He ensured that they had their share of food before others
in the ashram did. The Maharshi arranged for the proper
burial of the ashram animals upon their death and in some
cases erected samadhis.
-----------------------------------
The samadhis in Sri Ramanasramam of cow Lakshmi,Jacki the Dog,The Blessed crow and Valli,The Deer!- mute yet eloquent testimony to Sri Bhagavan's equal Vision(Samadhrishti) and universal Love.

Namaskar.

kandhan said...

Ravi,
Thanks of the posts. Very intersting.

Ravi said...

Kandhan/Friends,
You may like to explore this site that has many stories of Animals and Saints,Sages:
http://www.anaflora.com/articles/ana-saints/saint-14.html

Namaskar

Subramanian. R said...

I wish Osho had been born as a lice
on one of the monkeys' heads and
fondled by Bhagavan. He would have attained liberation. He could not do that. And he was born as Osho, acquired 364 Rolls
Royces and an AIDS carrying body,
with zero self knowledge. Oh what a pity!

Chuck Cliff said...

O, Subramaniam R! Why do you wish anything on anyone?

Spiritual Blogs said...

The true version is much more inspiring than the legend.
Thank you, David!
Ultimately, the seekers of truth find it, even though the path is often obstructed by the weeds of deception...

Carsten von Würden said...

Hi David
I read this marvelous story with great happyness! Thanks!

kas said...

Dear David,

Thank you for the wonderfully researched naration.

You are truly blessed.

Kasthury

Ramanujam said...

Sir,

Thanks a lot for providing related details regarding "The Cow,Lakshmi" from various books.

mona said...

Dear David,

I have copied most of your content on Lakshmi and posted it on a saibaba forum for devotees to read. Even though I have acknowledged your blogspot as my source, I failed to ask your permission before I posted it.
I am extremely sorry for my trespass. Please accept my apology and I ask for forgiveness.
I don't know why I did it before asking you David. Please don't be upset.

Mona

Anonymous said...

Maybe osho was also enlightned,at least Robert Adam once said so.

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David Ben-Dror said...

David -

Thank you so much for your loving efforts to reproduce accurately these and other details associated with Sri Ramana. One only has to read them to feel the immense Blessing and Power of the Master.

There is a palpable contrast here between these accounts and the inaccurate accounts which - to me at least - seem empty shells lacking in depth and spiritual substance.

Anonymous said...

Amazing!

Mr. Godman behave like some person who is little aware if not fully awakened. Don't be so english who can't understand what OSHO has to say here...OSHO was not good towards most of the stupid saints of India but was always a praise for beloved master Ramana Maharishi. He always made stories interesting and a way to convey the hidden teaching behind them to his disciples or for that matter audience. The facts doesn't matter much if essence is conveyed well...so is the case here. But what to say about you and some of your stupid indians followers here ...

You people are biased towards OSHO that is sure here otherwise such a beautiful narration in some context by OSHO you wouldn't have condemned for irrelevant details which anyway is not possible when one is talking directly to audience not like u who is a writer. Writer have little understanding about what they write is clearly evident here.

May Maharishi bless you!!!

naresh