In a recent comment on one of the other posts I promised to find the manuscript version of Bhagavan's enlightenment experience that was printed in The Mountain Path. It's from 1981, pp. 67-69. It's a very interesting account, one that sheds a lot of extra light on the events of that day and the weeks that followed. The material in italics is the editor's introduction to the article, while the material in roman is Bhagavan's story, as recorded by B. V. Narasimha Swami.
The most detailed published account of Bhagavan’s realisation is to be found in B. V. Narasimha Swami’s biography Self Realization. It was the first major biography to be written, and all subsequent accounts have relied heavily on his version, either quoting it verbatim or summarising its contents. The account in the book was not a direct transcription of Bhagavan’s words, and the author makes this clear in a footnote which has appeared in most of the editions of the book. He said that he was merely summarising, in his own words, a series of conversations which he had with Bhagavan over a period of six weeks in 1930. The following account gives two of the conversations on which his final account was based. These are the only records of the conversation that are still in existence, but fortunately they cover all the known aspects of the experience, so it is unlikely that much valuable material has been lost. The first conversation took place on
There are two important points in this account that are not brought out in the published version. The first is Bhagavan’s repeated use of the word avesam to describe his initial perception of his experience. In Tamil the word means ‘possession’ in the sense of being taken over by a spirit. For the first few weeks Bhagavan felt that he had been taken over by a spirit which had taken up residence in his body. The second related point is that the feeling persisted until shortly before he left home. His discovery that the avesam was the Self, and not some external being residing in his body, may have been a contributory factor in his decision to leave home.
The account is in Bhagavan’s words, and though there are strong traces of the translator’s style and preferred terminology, it is still a more accurate version than the ones that have appeared in all the published biographies.
Bhagavan: My fear of death was some six weeks before I left
That fear was only on the first day, that is, the day of the awakening. It was a sudden fear of death which developed, not merely indifference to external things. It also started two new habits. First, the habit of introspection, that is, having attention perpetually turned on my Self, and second, the habit of emotional tears when visiting the
‘This body is going to die,’ I said to myself, referring to the gross physical body. I had no idea that there was any sukshma sarira [subtle body] in human beings. I did not even think of the mind. I thought of the gross physical body when I used the term body, and I came to the conclusion that when it was dead and rigid (then it seemed to me that my body had actually become rigid as I stretched myself like a corpse with rigor mortis upstairs, thinking this out) I was not dead. I was, on the other hand, conscious of being alive, in existence. So the question arose in me, ‘What was this “I”? Is it the body? Who called himself the “I”?’
So I held my mouth shut, determined not to allow it to pronounce ‘I’ or any other syllable. Still I felt within myself, the ‘I’ was there, and the thing calling or feeling itself to be ‘I’ was there. What was that? I felt that there was a force or current, a centre of energy playing on the body, continuing regardless of the rigidity or activity of the body, though existing in connection with it. It was that current, force or centre that constituted my Self, that kept me acting and moving, but this was the first time I came to know it. I had no idea of my Self before that. From that time on, I was spending my time absorbed in contemplation of that current.
Once I reached that conclusion (as I said, on the first day of the six weeks, the day of my awakening into my new life) the fear of death dropped off. It had no place in my thoughts. ‘I’, being a subtle current, it had no death to fear. So, further development or activity was issuing from the new life and not from any fear. I had no idea at that time of the identity of that current with the personal God, or Iswara as I used to call him. As for Brahman, the impersonal absolute, I had no idea then. I had not even heard the name then. I had not read the Bhagavad Gita or any other religious works except the Periyapuranam and in Bible class the four Gospels and the Psalms from the Bible. I had seen a copy of Vivekananda’s
While, on the one hand, the awakening gave me a continuous idea or feeling that my Self was a current or force in which I was perpetually absorbed whatever I did, on the other hand the possession led me frequently to the Meenakshi Sundaresa Temple [in Madurai]. Formerly I would visit it occasionally with friends, but at that time [it] produced no noticeable emotional effect, much less a change in my habits. But after the awakening I would go there almost every evening, and in that obsession I would go and stand there for a long time alone before Siva, Nataraja, Meenakshi and the sixty-three saints. I would sob and shed tears, and would tremble with emotion. I would not generally pray for anything in particular, although I often wished and prayed that…
The rest of this particular manuscript is missing, but a few weeks later, on
It was not fear of death that took me to the
That avesam continues right up to now. After reading the language of the sacred books, I see it may be termed suddha manas [pure mind], akhandakara vritti [unbroken experience], prajna [true knowledge] etc.; that is, the state of mind of Iswara or the jnani.
Question: How is it that there was a perception of difference and prayer that ‘I should become like the sixty-three saints and get Iswara’s grace?
Bhagavan: The akhandakara [unbroken] current was sporting with these and still remained despite that desire.
[Back to me in 2008... What I like in this account is the clear process of self-enquiry that is mentioned. This seemed a lot more vague in the final published version. I was also pleased to note that the phrase ' ...I feel the full force of my personality...' is absent here. I always found it odd that Bhagavan would say that he felt the full force of his personality after his realisation, so I suspect that this phrase was inserted by Narasimha Swami. Twenty-five years ago I talked to Prof. Swaminathan about this and asked him what Tamil phrase might correspond to this 'full force of his personality', but he couldn't think of anything that it might have been.