Ramana Maharshi and Animals
It is not really a wonder that, Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, being the Self in all, was friendly to all animals, and that all animals were peaceful and calm in his presence. His special spiritual relationship with the Divine Cow Lakshmi is well known. But the amazing thing is that he pacified even the deadliest ones, such as a cobra. Below are several incidents related by His dedicated devotees, about his love, kindness and gentle treatment of animals. It is really magnificent that he treated animals, birds and even insects as he treated human beings.
Ramana, the Peacock and Snake
At Skandashram, a peacock would follow Bhagavan everywhere. One day a huge black cobra appeared in the Ashram and the peacock attacked it fiercely. The cobra spread its hood and the two natural enemies were poised for a fight to death. Then Bhagavan came quite near the cobra and said, “Why did you come here? That peacock will kill you. Better go away at once”. The cobra immediately lowered its hood and slithered away.
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 196.
Bitter enemies play like friends
It is mentioned in Day by Day with Bhagavan, that Ramana said that, at Skandasramam, sometimes a peacock and serpent used to play side by side before him, the one with its tail spread out and the other with its hood raised.
Day by Day with Bhagavan
Nov. 24, 1945
Wild animals don’t matter
When I first came to the Ashram there were still some leopards in the area. They rarely came into the Ashram but at night they frequented the place where Bhagavan used to visit outside the Ashram. Once when a leopard appeared, Ramana was not in the least afraid. He just looked at the leopard and said, ‘Poda!’, meaning “Go away boy!”, and the leopard walked away.
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 70.
The Jnani Leopard
On a moonlit night some devotees were going round the holy Arunachala Hill, chanting the Vedas. Suddenly they saw a leopard standing right in the middle of the road and looking at them. The singers were paralysed with fear. They could neither sing nor walk ahead or run away. The leopard looked at them quietly for quite a long time and then slowly crossed the road and disappeared into the jungle. The devotees thanked their stars, completed their round of the hill and, after returning to the Ashram, related their adventure to Bhagavan Ramana, who listened carefully and said, “There was no reason for fear. The leopard is a jnani who came down from the hill to listen to your chanting the Vedas. He went away deeply disappointed because out of fright you broke off singing. Why were you afraid”?
The wounded dove
Once somebody brought Bhagavan a wounded dove. Bhagavan held it in his hands for some time and then asked the devotees gathered in the hall, “Who will take good care of this bird until it is quite well”? No offer came. Some time back the Maharani of Baroda had presented a white peacock to the Ashram and everybody was eager to take charge of it. Bhagavan looked around and started talking to the dove, “What a pity you are not a peacock. You are a mere dove, a useless little thing, not a costly bird presented by a Maharani. Who wants you? Who will care for you”? The dove was kept in the Ashram in a clumsy cage, became well and flew away. But the lesson of universal compassion remained.
Ramana and animals
Bhagavan treated animals and birds with great affection and concern. Sometimes a couple of monkeys would walk into the meditation hall. Some devotees used to get agitated. Bhagavan would gently call the monkeys and give them cashewnuts or groundnuts. They would go away screeching with delight. Sometimes a squirrel would scramble up the couch. Bhagavan would fondle it and give it whatever was available and it would leave without disturbing anybody. Similarly, a peacock would come and get some puffed rice from his hand.
Regarding Squirrels, there’s more
Regarding squirrels, this interesting anecdote exists in Day by Day with Bhagavan, which happened on March 7, 1946.
Smt. Suri Nagamma has been keeping a record of interesting events that she writes to her brother, D.S. Sastri, at Madras in the form of letters. This was placed before Bhagavan and he looked through it and suggested that she should paste a list of contents on the cover. One of the extracts referred to squirrels and this led Bhagavan to start speaking about them.
“There was once a regular war between the people here and the squirrels for a whole month. They used to build their nests over my head. Each day the people would destroy them and the next day the squirrels would have built them again. At last all the holes in the roof were stopped up and the squirrels could do nothing. At one time they used to run all over my couch and get into the sides and under the pillows and everywhere, and I had to look carefully before I sat down or leaned back. It has sometimes happened that I have accidentally leaned heavily on some small squirrel and given it samadhi without knowing. The same thing sometimes happened on the Hill too, at Skandasramam. There too the squirrels used to nestle in my mattress and pillows. It began even before that. Even when I was at Gurumoortham birds and squirrels used to build their nests all round me. There is a bird that builds its nest of mud. Once while I was there such a nest was built and after the birds had left it squirrels occupied it.”
Bhagavan and the Deer
Once an Ashram deer was attacked by some animals and the wounds turned from bad to worse. Bhagavan sat near the deer, held its face in his hand, looking at its tearful eyes. The sarvadhikari of the Ashram asked my uncle who was standing close, to look after the deer and relieve Bhagavan. Bhagavan heard this but did not make any response, and sat there till the deer breathed its last. There is a samadhi for the deer, near the one for cow Lakshmi.
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 33.
Ramana was kind to all animals
Bhagavan was invariably kind to all animals. Snakes and scorpions were never allowed to be killed. For dogs he always had a tender spot. At one time a small puppy would always relieve itself near the office.The sarvadhikari got furious and tried to drive it out of the Ashram. Bhagavan came to its rescue saying that if some child did the same thing nobody would be angry, and the puppy was only a child and knew no better.
He seemed to love monkeys specially, and often said that in many ways they were better than human beings. He would often give directions that they should be fed, and encouraged them in many ways to the annoyance of the management to whom they were a great nuisance. He also told us how, at times, people would reincarnate in the body of some animal just for a chance to be near him. There is, of course, the famous example of Lakshmi, the Ashram cow.
Major A.W. Chadwick
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 111.
In this regard this should be mentioned as recorded in Day by Day with Bhagavan on May 16, 1946. G.V.S. read out to Bhagavan two stanzas that he had composed on the occasion of his last visit. Their gist was, “On seeing your kindness to all sorts of animals, to squirrels, peacocks, dogs, cows and monkeys, how can one remain unaffected? One’s very bones melt at it. All sorts of birds and beasts approach you, receive your glance and touch, and so attain salvation. Vouchsafe the same to this human animal and save it also.”
Day by Day with Bhagavan
May 16, 1946
Ramana was a friend to animals
Bhagavan was a friend of every one – saint or sinner, prince or peasant, learned or ignorant, cow, dog or monkey. Mr. J.C. Molony, has noted how his dog preferred the hermit’s company to his own. He says as follows: After visiting the sage on the hill, when I reached my camp, one of my dogs was missing. In the evening arrived the holy man leading the dog on a string. The sage said, “He came back to me, and I should have liked to keep him. But why should I steal him from you?”
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 43.
Ramana was kind to animals, but plants too
At meal time, Bhagavan would ask to be served very little, and he would carefully clear the leaf-plate of the last grain of food before getting up. I once remarked, “If we clear our dining leaves so scrupulously, the dogs, cats, monkeys, rats and ants will starve.” Bhagavan’s response was, “If you are so compassionate, why not feed the animals before taking food yourself?”
Bhagavan’s kindness and solicitude also extended to vegetation and plants. Once the Sarvadhikari of the Ashram asked a workman to clear the dead leaves of an almond tree. The man started chopping right and left. Bhagavan called out to the man, “Hey, you are torturing the tree too much. Don’t you know it is alive? Imagine what would happen if I suddenly grabbed you by the hair and pulled. Your hair may have no life, yet you would feel it. Better leave the poor tree and go away.”
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 62.
Ramana treated monkeys like human beings
On one occasion, the Swami (Ramana) was speaking about monkeys sitting very near him as though they were human beings. He would refer to one as the ‘leader’ and eulogise his qualities of head and heart while the monkey would grin and make faces at us as though he was not pleased with our manner of receiving the Swami’s remarks. It was amazing to see the Swami (Ramana) offer food in his hand and the grimacing monkey come and take it from his hand as from a parent’s. How well behaved they were with him! Although the next moment they hopped off and went away bouncing over the rocks for their usual, wild, carefree life!
Col. A.N.S. Murthi
Face to Face with Ramana Maharshi, Item 103.
The day being ‘Sri Rama Navami’, Lord Rama’s birthday, Bhagavan had suggested, “This is Monkeys day. We must give them food”. And accordingly about 11 a.m. when we were all having our food, Vaikuntha Vasan seems to have taken a good quantity of food, vegetables, sweets and savories, that is, all that we were taking, all mixed up together, to the steps at the back of the Asramam for the monkeys. In the night, Bhagavan asked attendant Vaikuntha Vasan whether the monkeys were properly fed in the noon and whether many monkeys turned up. Vaikunta Vasan replied, “When I went, there were only two or three monkeys. But after a time, all of them came and they were all well fed. They did not quarrel with each other or bite each other.” Bhagavan said, “They won’t fight when there is enough for all. All trouble arises only when there is want. They would also raise a big cry as an indication of their joy, whenever they get plenty to eat. We have had such experiences when I was on the Hill. They used to be fed frequently there.”
Day by Day with Bhagavan
April 10, 1946
Ramana said monkeys owned this land
Ramana’s attendant Krishnaswami would beat monkeys who played mischief in the hall, or tried to stealthily take away the fruits. Once Bhagavan told him, “It is not the monkeys that are receiving your beatings. It is me. The suffering is mine.” When some devotees complained to Bhagavan about their trouble with the monkeys, he said, “All this land was once a jungle in which the monkeys could roam about freely. It has been their natural habitat for centuries. We are trespassers. Is it fair to complain? Why not put upwith a little inconvenience.”
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 126
Monkeys are intelligent
Bhagavan then began speaking of monkeys and said, “They don’t build nests or stock things. They eat what they can find, and go and perch on trees when night falls. They are quite happy. I have known something about their organization, their kings, laws, regulations. Everything is so perfect and well-organised. So much intelligence behind it all. I even know that tapas is not unknown to monkeys. A monkey was once oppressed and ill-treated by a gang. He went away into the forest for a few days, did tapas, acquired strength and returned. When he came and sat on a bough and shook it, all the rest of the monkeys, who had previously illtreated him and of whom he was previously mortally afraid, were now quaking before him. Yes. I am clear that tapas is well known to monkeys.”
Day by Day with Bhagavan
Feb. 26, 1946
Squirrels don’t hoard
A squirrel came to Bhagavan and he was feeding it with cashew-nut pieces as usual. Turning to me, he said, “Shroff sent some cashew-nuts yesterday and said, ‘They were intended for my dumb friends’.” I said, “Probably Bhagavan would object to our calling these squirrels dumb.” Bhagavan said, “They communicate with me. Sometimes I am in a nap. They come and draw attention to their presence by gently biting my finger tips. Besides, they have a lot of language of their own. There is
one great thing about these squirrels. You may place any amount of food before them. They will just eat what they need and leave the rest behind. Not so the rat, for instance. It will take everything it finds and stock it in its hole.”
I remarked, “Possibly it would be said that the squirrel is a less intelligent creature than the rat, because it does not plan or provide for the future but lives in the present.” Bhagavan said, “Yes. Yes. We consider it intelligence to plan and live wretchedly like this. See how many animals and birds live in this world without planning and stocking. Are they all dying?”
Day by Day with Bhagavan
Feb. 26, 1946
Ramana talked to animals like he spoke to humans
About 5 p.m. on that day, when Parthasarathi and I entered the Ashram, we came to the verandah where about fifty people including Ratilal and his servant were sitting. Bhagavan was not on his couch. After waiting for some ten minutes and finding that Bhagavan had not come to his seat, Parthasarathi suggested that in the meantime, we could go around and see the Goshala (cowshed) and other places in the Ashram.
While returning from our brief tour of the Ashram, we heard a child like voice say in Tamil, “Chee, asatthe!”, meaning “Hey, you bad boy!”. We then observed movement among the leaves of several kinds of plants in the kitchen garden. Looking more intently, we saw a small goat, a little monkey and a squirrel, and also Bhagavan, who was sitting hunched up with his legs folded up to his breast. Bhagavan was holding a small paper packet in his left hand and was taking peanuts from it with his right hand to feed the goat, the monkey and the squirrel and also himself, by turns. His remarks appeared to have been addressed to the monkey, which had tried to snatch the nut that he was going to offer to the squirrel. As we watched, the four companions went on enjoying the eating. All the four seemed to be equally happy; the way they looked at one another and kept close together was touching. We saw all the four only as good friends despite the differences in their forms. No words could describe the feelings which passed through my being at the sight.
Finally, the nuts were all gone, so Bhagavan threw the paper away and said: “Pongoda!”, meaning “Go away, you fellows!”, just as any old man speaking to his grandchildren. The goat, the monkey and the squirrel left and Bhagavan got up to leave. We hurried away, feeling guilty of trespassing into the Divine, but not sorry about it.
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 139
Maharshi knew everything
The Maharshi seemed to know everything. He knew the language of the animals. He listened to their complaints. He treated every being in the same way, whether it was a cow or a dog, a crow or a monkey. All were equal in his eyes, the beggar and the millionaire. He never went out of Tiruvannamalai. He refused to go out and preach. He said, “If I am a jnani, I consider everybody else a jnani too. What is there to give?” He regarded everybody as himself. He made no attempt to convert anybody. One got transformed by his very presence.
Sri. Morarji Desai (previously Prime Minister of India)
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 139
Learning from animals
I was blessed with my first upadesam of Bhagavan when I was six. In 1920, at Skandashram a plate of fruit and sweets had been put aside for a lame monkey called ‘Nondy’. When nobody was around I went near the plate, took a sweet and put it in my mouth. All of a sudden the monkey appeared, limped towards me, slapped me and grabbed the plate. Then Bhagavan appeared on the scene and said, “This is a lesson for you; now understand that we should not desire things which belong to others.” I fully understood the profound meaning of this upadesam long afterwards when I was president of the Ashram.
Swami Ramananda Saraswati (formerly T.N. Venkataraman)
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 162
Ramana’s sense of humor
On great occasions like Jayanti, Bhagavan would ask me, “Have you attended to the ‘boys’ (monkeys)?” I used to take plenty of food and spread it on the rocks. After they finished eating, the monkeys would keep quiet, lying down content, and Bhagavan would remark, “Look, how good they all have become and do not do any mischief now.”
Once there was a snake below my pillow. When I reported it to Bhagavan, He laughingly remarked, “Oh, it is quite all right. What else can make a better bed for you?” Such was His sense of humour. [Vaikuntavasar is one of the names of Lord Vishnu, whose bed is Adisesha, the holy snake.]
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 200
Spiritual maturity in animals
Although Bhagavan managed to maintain a façade of ordinariness, he was able to see the spiritual worth of everyone who came to see him, and would not let himself be understood by the undeserving.
Bhagavan could recognise spiritual maturity in the people around him. He could also discern it in the animals that came to him. One day, Bhagavan’s mother asked, “Why does that dog always like to stay in your lap?” Bhagavan turned to me and said, “This dog is always in unwavering samadhi. A great soul has come in the form of a dog. Mother does not know this.”
Velacheri Ranga Iyer
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 44
Humans and animals must be fed the same food
Bhagavan insisted that avoidance of waste overruled everything else, and he would never permit God’s gift to be thrown away. As for giving the leftovers to beggars, it was not possible because Bhagavan insisted that beggars be given the same food as everyone else, and not some inferior stuff. Even dogs had to be fed from the common meal.
Sundaram (Sadhu Trivenigiri)
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 67
Ramana’s Grace reaches a lucky Dog
In the early 1930’s, a dog called Jackie fell sick. Bhagavan arranged a soft bed for it in the hall and was tending it affectionately. After a few days it got more sick and started emitting a bad smell. It made no difference to Bhagavan’s attention on it. Finally, it expired in his hands. It lies buried in the Ashram precincts, with a small monument over it.
Prof. V.B. Athavale
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 105
Crow gets salvation
T.R. Kanakammal said as follows:
One day, Bhagavan was sitting in the verandah with some devotees. Suddenly a wounded crow flew in at great speed and fell at Bhagavan’s feet, who picked it up and stroked it gently. When the crow died in his hand, Bhagavan said, “Some siddha purusha has left his body today”, and gave instruction for entombing the crow. Pranavananda who was on the scene broke into tears.
S. Narasimhan (Swami Pranavananda)
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 130
Some learn the hard way
Once a hunter was about to kill a peacock on the hill. When the Maharshi forbade him to do so, he brushed aside his words saying, “Go Swami, who is asking you?” The next day, it would appear, the man had an accident and his very arm had to be cut off. “I felt sorry for him,” said the Maharshi speaking of it, “but what is to be done? People have to go through these things before they would learn.”
T.V. Kapali Sastri
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 184
Spritually Ripe and Unripe animals
There were four dogs in the Asramam. Sri Bhagavan said that those dogs would not accept any food not partaken by Himself. Mr. Rangachari, the pandit put the matter to the test. He spread some food before them; they would not touch it. Then after a little while, Sri Bhagavan put a small morsel of the food into His mouth. Immediately the dogs rushed and devoured the food.
Later a man brought two peacocks with their eyes screened. When let loose in Maharshi’s presence they flew away to a distance. They were brought back but still they flew away. Sri Bhagavan then said, “It is no use trying to keep them here. They are not ripe in their minds as these dogs.” However much they tried to keep the peacocks they would not remain there even a minute.
Talks with Ramana Maharshi
Talks 119 and 120.
Ramana and the unusual mongoose
Mr. Grant Duff asked the Master if any mongoose had had anything to do with him. The Master said, “Yes. It was the occasion of Ardra and Jayanti, I was living up the hill in Skandasramam. Streams of visitors were climbing up the hill from the town A mongoose, larger than the ordinary size, of golden hue (not grey as a mongoose is), with no black spot on its tail as is usual with the wild mongoose, passed these crowds fearlessly. People took it to be a tame one belonging to someone in the crowd. The animal went straight to Palaniswami, who was having a bath in the spring by the Virupaksha Cave. He stroked the creature and patted it. It followed him into the cave, inspected every nook and corner and left the place and joined the crowd to pass up to Skandasramam. I noticed it. Everyone was struck by its attractive appearance and its fearless movements. It came up to me, got on my lap and rested there some time. Then it raised itself up, looked about and moved down; it went round the whole place and I followed it lest it should be harmed by the unwary visitors or by the peacocks. Two peacocks of the place looked at it inquisitively, whereas the mongoose moved nonchalantly from place to place and finally disappeared into the rocks on the south-east of the Asramam.”
Talks with Ramana Maharshi
Bhagavan changed enemies into friends
There were two peacocks which used to strut with their feathers spread out like a spangled fan. A cobra too used to take part in the pastime and raised its hood and moved about in their midst. It is just amazing to hear such things in the atmosphere of the great Sage Ramana Maharshi, which would be absolutely unheard of anywhere else.
Talks with Ramana Maharshi
Equal kindness and love to all beings always
In April 1950, I was in Bangalore to see Papa Ram Dass. When informed that Ramana has left his body, I went to Tiruvannamalai. The crowds had already started to come, thousands and thousands of people. So l climbed the hill and went into one of the caves, and stayed there for five days. When I came down the crowd had dispersed…I enquired of his devotee who saw him last, “What were the last words he spoke?” He said, “While he was leaving the body, a peacock flew on top of a wall and started screeching. Ramana asked his attendant, ‘Has anyone fed the peacock yet?’ Those were his last words.”
Face to Face with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Item 163