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Brahmavidya Panchakam (Five verses on the Brahman Lore)

That, by which the living and the non-living are pervaded
Like the pot, jug, etc. by clay substance,
That, within which this (world) shines,
That, which this in essence is,
That, from which this was born,
That, in which this exists,
That, which continues as Pure Being Unborn even during dissolution,
That, which follows everything (Omnipresent),
Know That to be the Reality, the Eternal,
To which the pure in mind pay their obeisance. – (3)

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Brahmavidya Panchakam (Five verses on the Brahman Lore)

Thou verily art Brahman, and not the senses,
Neither the mind nor the intellect,
Neither the chitta nor the body,
Others such as the prana, I-sense, etc. too
Are unreal and super-imposed by avidya on the Self.
Being drishya (seen), inert is this whole world,
Neither born of anything apart from you,
Nor manifesting by itself,
Apparent like the mirage,
May this be well-discerned! – (2)

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Brahmavidya Panchakam (Five verses on the Brahman Lore)

By discrimination between the eternal and the ephemeral,
Attaining to high dispassion, the well-versed one,
Shining with the six-fold qualifications of shama, etc.,
Becomes desirous of liberation here in this world.
He, then, approaching a great Knower of the Absolute – Guru,
And pleasing him with prostrations, services, etc.,
Should ask thus, “‘Who am I?’, ‘Wherefrom came the world?’
O Master! O Lord! Do Thou convey.” – (1)

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Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society on Sree Narayana Guru -

A mystic of dynamic temper, a practical yogi, and the famous spiritual leader of Kerala, Sri Narayana Guru was born in 1855, wandered far and wide in his spiritual search for the answer to the problems of life, had studied minutely India's most sacred books, and through struggle, iron will and hardships distinguished himself as one of the greatest of the modern saints who have exemplified in their own shining lives the ideal of the unity of all life, the oneness of mankind, the profound love for all that breathes.
He was fired by a reformer's zeal and held aloft by the inspiring example of his own life the grandeur of the gospel of Advaita Vedanta.
Universality of outlook constitutes the striking feature of the great life and thought of Sri Narayana Guru.
Serene, kind and humorous, Shri Narayana Guru possessed a keen intelligence of Vedanta.
His entire life's work formed one splendid story that illustrated powerfully the applicability of the principles of Vedanta to daily life.
May Kerala, India and all the world draw from his life yet greater inspiration and seek to propagate on a wider scale his brilliant teachings, his lofty principles and his gospel of unity!

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You are Brahman indeed.
You are not the senses.
You are not the mind.
You are not the intellect.
You are not the storehouse of knowledge (chitta).
You are not the physical body.
You are not the functional vitality (prana).
You are not the I-sense.
You are not anything else.
All these are just superimposed on the Self
And thus they are all unreal.
All these being objects of knowledge, this world
(Constituted of these) is inert non-self.
Nothing was born other than of you.
This world does not and cannot have existence on its own.
Its appearance is like that of water in a mirage.
This Truth is to be properly and
Intuitively perceived by you.

(Verse 2 of Brahmavidya Panchakam)

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When Guru met Maharshi
India is sometimes referred to as the land of religions and saints. No other sub-continent has contributed to the world spiritually as much as India has. Since time unknown, India has been producing saints and prophets who have led mankind from illusion to truth, from darkness to light and from death to life. Especially, the 19th and 20th century witnessed many such self realised souls arise from India. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Swami Vivekananda in Bengal, Sai Baba in Maharashtra, Ramana Maharshi in Tamil Nadu, Sree Narayana Guru and Sri Chattambi Swamikal in Kerala, etc. were some of these great souls. There may have been many other such souls who were equally great although not very famous. At times, there have been some unusual meetings between these saints. One such interesting meeting was the one between Sree Narayana Guru and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai in 1916. Its not often that great self realised souls of their magnitude come together. So, this event deserves to be well treasured atleast in books.
Although most biographers mention this event in their books, a detailed account is rare. Swami Mangalananda had written an authentic report on this meeting in the Sivagiri magazine in 1948 under the name S.M. As it was written according to the details provided by Ramana Maharshi himself when Swami Mangalananda personally visited him, it may well be called the most authentic on this subject. The 'Mountain Path' magazine from Ramanashram also gave a description of Sree Narayana Guru's visit in its July 1984 issue. Swami Satchidananda of Sivagiri Mutt had also written about it in detail in the Sivagiri magazine, the May 1985 issue of Vivekodayam and his book 'Gurudeva charithrakathakaliile kaanappurangal'. The following account has been prepared based on these articles.
It was in 1916, Swami Govindananda, a disciple of Sree Narayana Guru had established an ashram named 'Sree Narayana Seva Ashram' at Kancheepuram, Tamil Nadu. Sree Narayana Guru arrived there for the inaugration of the ashram with his disciples Swami Achyutananda, Swami Sugunananda, Swami Vidyananda, etc. At the end of the ceremony, Kunnakudi Madathipathi Swami Advaitananda, Ganapati Swami, Koviloor Madathipathi, Palaniswami of Ramanashram, etc. who were present there invited Gurudevan to their respective ashrams. Among them, Palaniswami was a Keralite and had visited Sivagiri ashram a number of times. He requested Gurudevan to visit Ramanashram at Tiruvannamalai during his return journey to Kerala. As Gurudevan had to return to Kerala soon, the visit to Kunnakudi and Koviloor was postponed (He later visited these places in 1926). Gurudevan informed Palaniswami that during his return journey, he would be visiting Tiruvannamalai before proceeding to Kerala. After the inaugration of the ashram, Gurudevan traveled to Chennai (then Madras) with his disciples including Swami Govindananda. After a week long program in Madras, they turned towards Kerala via Tiruvannamalai.
Ramana Maharshi had arrived at Tiruvannamalai at the age of 17 and had never left that place until his Samadhi. The Tiruvannamalai is actually a mountain and its adjacent areas too are known by this name. To complete a revolution of this mount, we will have to walk about 8 kms. Sree Narayana Guru and his disciples visited the Tiruvannamalai temple and then arrived at the foot of the mountain by 10 o' clock in the morning. During this period, Ramana Maharshi used to stay at the Skanda Ashram on this mount. After resting for sometime at the base of the mountain, Gurudevan said to his disciples, "Seems like Maharshi has never come down this mountain after arriving here. Lets go up and meet him." They started climbing the mountain. Gurudevan shared a lot of jokes with his disciples during this journey. At one juncture, he stopped suddenly and turned around towards his disciples. In his natural humour sense he said, "We had to climb all these mountains because of an oldie". This sudden joke from Gurudevan immersed his disciples in joy.
Meanwhile, learning that Gurudevan and his disciples have arrived below the mountain, Palaniswami informed it to Maharshi. Hearing this, Maharshi got ready to come down to receive them. By then, Gurudevan and his disciples had reached there. Both the sages faced each other for a moment as if their eyes were speaking to each other. Then, Gurudevan walked off and rested under the shade of a 'chamba' tree while his disciples stayed beside the Maharshi. One of them, Swami Achyutananda recited some of the poetic works of Sree Narayana Guru like Advaitadeepika, Municharyapanchakam, Brahmavidyapanchakam, etc. for the Maharshi. Maharshi listened to them with attention. After some time, the disciples came back to Gurudevan. Gurudevan asked them, "Did you all see him?". They replied gladly, "Yes, we saw.". Gurudevan said, "Everyone saw, only I didn't, right?". When the disciples understood what Gurudevan indirectly meant by 'seeing', they felt a bit ashamed. What Gurudevan meant was seeing the magnitude or greatness of Maharshi's spiritual attainment which can never be perceived or measured. The disciples then visited the nearby areas accompanied by the ashram inmates. Swami Vidyananda stayed with Gurudevan serving him and noting down his golden words. Some of the important verses of his work Darsanamala were composed by Gurudevan during this time.
When it was noon, an atmosphere of a feast prevailed at the ashram. In the traditional South Indian way, leaves of banana trees were placed as plates besides the cave where Ramana Maharshi rests. Gurudevan was still busy narrating something which were carefully being noted down by Swami Vidyananda. According to Maharshi's directions one his disciples went to invite Gurudevan for food. However, Gurudevan said that he will come later. When Maharshi saw that none of them were present, he himself went to invite Gurudevan. "We shall have food", said Ramana Maharshi. Gurudevan stopped the writing at once and accompanied Maharshi. After having the lunch, Gurudevan went back to the same spot where he was resting earlier. At that time, a postman arrived there with a telegram for Gurudevan. Maharshi received the post and read it. It was a letter seeking the blessings of Gurudevan for the consecration ceremony of a temple somewhere in Kerala. Maharshi wrote down the message in Malayalam and sent it to Gurudevan who was sitting under the tree. Reading it Gurudevan said, "Oh nice, Maharshi writes Malayalam beautifully".
Mahadeva Swami, the Madathipathi of Ishanyamadom near Ramanashram, also came there with his disciples to invite Gurudevan to their ashram. Without any hesitation Gurudevan visited their ashram too. Gurudevan distributed the large amount of sweets which were offered to him among the people gathered there. Gurudevan gave special attention to a small boy among them who was plucking flowers in the garden. Gurudevan talked to the boy for sometime and later said to an inmate of the ashram, "You must educate this child. He will be a great man." This child later became the reknowned and scholarly Madathipathi of Koviloor, Sri Nateshaswami Adigal.
After that Gurudevan returned to Ramanashram. By 4 o'clock in the evening Gurudevan departed from Ramanashram. It was mentioned earlier that while resting under the chamba tree Gurudevan was narrating something which were carefully being noted down by Swami Vidyananda. It was a poem named 'Nirvruthi Panchakam' which may have been composed as a tribute to the great renunciation of Ramana Maharshi. Before leaving, Swami Vidyananda gave this poem as a sacred offering to the Maharshi. The following is the poem and its brief meaning:

Nirvruthi Panchakam (Five verses on Tranquility)
Kim nama desha ka jathih pravrutthi ka kiyad vayah
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (1)
Meaning: What is your name? Where are you from? What is your caste? What is your profession? How old are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.

Aagacha gacha magacha pravisha kvanu gachasi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (2)
Meaning: Come! Go! Don't go! Come in! Where are you going? He who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.

Kva yasyasi kada ayata kuta ayasi kosi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (3)
Meaning: When did you go? When did you come? From where did you come? Who are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.

Aham tvam soyam antarhi bahir asti na va asti va
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (4)
Meaning: Me or you, that or this person, inside or outside, he who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.

Jnata ajnata samah sva anya bheda shoonyah kuto bhida
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (5)
Meaning: Equal towards the known and unknown, without discrimination between self and others, then why is this difference? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.

In 1928, when Maharshi learnt that Gurudevan was seriously ill and resting at Sivagiri, he sent Pazhani Swami and Kunchu Swami to look after Gurudevan. Many monks from the lineage of Gurudevan like Salem Shantalinga Swamikal, Swami Achyutananda, Nataraja Guru, Swami Mangalananda, Nitya Chaithanya Yati, Swami Nijanananda, etc. visited Maharshi. Swami Govindananda and Swami Atmananda, the disciples of Gurudevan used to send ayurvedic medicines for Ramana Maharshi from their ashram at Kancheepuram. When Swami Mangalananda visited Ramana Maharshi to know more about Gurudevan's visit in 1916, Ramana Maharshi said, "Guru was a great man. He had nothing to speak with me. He knew everything." Maharshi used to receive them great love and affection. Once a devotee of Ramana Maharshi, Swami Balananda recited Gurudevan's magnum opus poem on Advaita, the 'Atmopadesha Shatakam' for Maharshi. Maharshi listened to it with great attention and was clapping his hand over his thigh as the verses progressed saying 'Appadi than, appadi than!' (exactly, exactly). When the verses related to realisation came, Maharshi exclaimed 'Ellam therinjavar.......ellam therinjavar (he knows everything). When he reached the middle portion of the poem, Ramana Maharshi stood up and exclaimed 'Periyorkal....periyorkal (Great man, great man).
Really, only a self realised being can fully understand another enlightened one.

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To the animal-lover who
Neither harms nor ropes
Nor kills any creature,
Accrues the Supreme Bliss.

~ vese 2 of Ahimsa (non-hurting),
a poem by Sree Narayana Guru

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When Swami Mangalananda visited Ramana Maharshi to know more about Gurudevan's visit in 1916, Ramana Maharshi said, "Guru was a great man. He had nothing to speak with me. He knew everything.

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After that Gurudevan returned to Ramanashram. By 4 o'clock in the evening Gurudevan departed from Ramanashram. It was mentioned earlier that while resting under the chamba tree Gurudevan was narrating something which were carefully being noted down by Swami Vidyananda. It was a poem named 'Nirvruthi Panchakam' which may have been composed as a tribute to the great renunciation of Ramana Maharshi. Before leaving, Swami Vidyananda gave this poem as a sacred offering to the Maharshi. The following is the poem and its brief meaning:

Nirvruthi Panchakam (Five verses on Tranquility)
Kim nama desha ka jathih pravrutthi ka kiyad vayah
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (1)
Meaning: What is your name? Where are you from? What is your caste? What is your profession? How old are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.

Aagacha gacha magacha pravisha kvanu gachasi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (2)
Meaning: Come! Go! Don't go! Come in! Where are you going? He who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.

Kva yasyasi kada ayata kuta ayasi kosi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (3)
Meaning: When did you go? When did you come? From where did you come? Who are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.

Aham tvam soyam antarhi bahir asti na va asti va
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (4)
Meaning: Me or you, that or this person, inside or outside, he who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.

Jnata ajnata samah sva anya bheda shoonyah kuto bhida
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. - (5)
Meaning: Equal towards the known and unknown, without discrimination between self and others, then why is this difference? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.

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Faith is a product of the mind. We should never claim that only our religion is true and others false. There is truth in every religion. All of them have been established with good intentions.

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Devotee : Swamiji, if we can drink the milk of cows and goats what is wrong in eating their flesh too?
Guru : Is your mother alive?
Devotee : No, she passed away.
Guru : Was she cremated or eaten?

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When the teachings of various
prophets or sages can be
combined together under the
name of one prophet to form a
religion, why can't all the religions
established by different prophets
or sages be combined together
and called a single religion or
'Humanity' or by any general name? If this sounds
illogical or senseless, then this
illogicalness or senselessness has
happened to all the existing
religions to some extent.

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Right knowledge is wisdom. This universe is One Consciousness and there is no real distinction among the beings in it - this is right knowledge.

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There is nothing much to study in
Vedanta. Just like a wave is not
separate from the ocean, this
world is not separate from the
Supreme Existence (Self). This
awareness is enough. Don't
forget. Continue in this
awareness through constant
practice.

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Religion is not Pramana
(scriptural authority) for the one
who has realized the Truth. On
the contrary, he is an authority to
religion.

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What is the cause of fear? Duality is the cause of fear. Fear is always from someone or something 'else'. We are never afraid of ourselves. So, there must be something apart (separate) from the Self to be afraid of. This separation is duality. Thus, duality is the cause of fear. If there is only the Self, whom are we to fear? This is Advaita (Non-duality).

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We are the Self, not the body. We - the Self were, even before the formation of the body. Even if all these comes to an end, We will go on effulging like this.

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What are known as “this man” or
“that man”,
Contemplatively visualized,
Are in essence all one primordial
Self assuming various forms.
Whatever one does for one’s own
happiness,
Should be conducive to the
happiness of others as well.

~ verse 24 of the Atmopadesha
Shatakam (A hundred verses of
Self Instruction) by Narayana Guru

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The aim of discussions should not be to argue and win but to 'Learn and let learn'.

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It does not
matter what a man’s religion is,
provided he grows in virtue.

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An aide to the priest of the Sarada
Temple was in the habit of
stealing money from the donation
box. He was caught red handed
and brought before Sree
Narayana Guru. Seeing his shame
filled eyes the Guru said, “You
seem to love money. It is not bad.
Be the treasurer of the temple and
take good care of the money
people donate.” He was made the
treasurer and proved to be
trustworthy.

- Nitya Chaitanya Yati

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A man came at night and felled a
few jackfruits from the trees of
the Ashram. He was produced
before the Guru. The Guru said, “It
is dangerous to go prowling in
the night, especially in snake
infested places. Only the trees
belong to the ashram. The fruits
belong to the hungry. Come boldly
at daytime and take away the
fruits you want to eat”. This
served not only as a correction to
the culprit but also to those who
wanted to punish the hungry man
whose poverty sits squarely on
the shoulders of property owners.

- Nitya Chaitanya Yati

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Mr. Abdul Salam, an Arabic Pandit, once told me of his first experience with the Guru. When he was a boy of twelve some Muslim scholars came to his home one night and were reading Holy Quran. At that time Sree Narayana Guru came in and the Arabic scholars received him with due reverence. Then they continued the reading. The Guru listened to the reading and offered his interpretation of the passages. The Moulvis were amazed at the Guru’s insight into the Quran. Mr.Abdul Salam said that his father considered Sree Narayana Guru as the best Pir (Master) of Islam of his days.

Once a group of American missionaries came to the Guru with the intention of converting him to Christianity. The Guru received them with loving kindness. When they asked him to accept Christ as his Savior, the Guru said he already been saved with the rest of mankind by Christ. The missionaries showed disbelief. Then he asked:
Guru: Did Jesus come to save mankind?
Missionary: Yes.
G: All of mankind or only a few?
M: All of mankind.
G: Am I not one of them?
M: Yes, but you should believe in Christ.
G: Did Jesus save all who lived before his incarnation?
M: Yes, of course.
G: Did they have a chance of knowing him and believing in him?
M: No. But they were saved.
G: Then it is not imperative to believe?
M: No, you should believe.

At this point Guru said, “Look at these people. How ardent is their devotion? All right you send me a man to teach me the Bible.”
They sent an Indian Christian, Mr.John, to teach him the Bible. Every day Mr.John read out a few passages from the new testament and the Guru would give his own rendering of the Bible. John became a dedicated devotee of the Guru. Till his old age he served the Guru, remaining as a good Christian. Guru had no rivalry with any religion. Although he did not object to anybody being converted to any religion in which the votary had faith, he did not see the need for conversion. His teaching was to be a good man, whatever one’s religion is.

- Nitya Chaitanya Yati

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A junior officer of the Indian Civil Service once recounted the following account of how he met the Guru for the first time in his life:

“My privilege-leave was about to expire and I was travelling back to Salem in a mail train. I was seated in a second-class compartment. At about ten o’clock in the morning the train steamed up to the crowded platform of Calicut. A number of people, dressed in spotless white, were seen on the platform. In the centre of the group was seated on a chair an old gentleman dressed also in white, who was well-nigh sixty years old. He was tall, slender and erect. The arrival of the train and the consequent bustle did not seem to produce any effect on the composed features of this person.
When the first bustle had subsided, the person slowly got up from his seat and walked into the very compartment in which I was seated. My curiosity to know who this revered person was, became aroused; and I began to watch him minutely. I soon guessed that he did not belong to the class of rich people, for he wore neither gold nor silver on him. His dress was of the simplest description, consisting merely of two pieces of white cloth. He wore no sort of head dress but, after the manner of the Hindu Sannyasi, had a clean-shaven head, which showed a sparse crown of silver hair. There was a sedate grandeur in his countenance, which was not suggestive on the one hand of the cold calculating nature of a man of wealth, nor on the other, of the sternness of a fighter. Relaxed and restful, like the countenance of a child, it still revealed an undercurrent of seriousness which led the critical observer into the unfathomable depths of something inexplicable.
The supreme restfulness and leisureliness of his manners, unaffected by anything that was passing round him, the spotless purity of his personal attire the delicately artistic perfection of every one of his movements, even the manner in which the flowing dress clung round his person — half negligently, yet in a way that the artist would have the rumples adjusted — the silence and the gentleness of his ordinary behaviour made him carry with him, even in the busy atmosphere of a modern railway-station, a still halo of reverence. When he talked, which was only now and then, his voice which, though not loud, had still a rich mellow in it, exercised a peculiar lulling effect which could be compared to the far-off chiming of temple bells or the noonday murmur of bumble-bees. As I was watching him, I could observe that tears filled to the point of overflowing the eyes of this great man, as one by one the devotees, that had gathered on the platform, measured their lengths in prostration before him. Each one of them touched the foot of the strange leader and placed an offering of fruits and flowers before retiring from his presence. Age had not robbed his features of that soft freshness, rich fullness, and restful relaxation so characteristic of the Indian Yogi. A pair of not at all large eyes, which seemed to be constantly gazing at some object in the far off fringe of the horizon, lips with the corners slightly turned down as if in open-eyed meditation, all these and many more little traits, revealed to me that the stranger was one of the Mahatmas or Holy men of India.
The train soon left the station, and, as we stopped at the next station, I could observe that Sree Narayana Guru—for the stranger was none other than this revered leader of whom I had heard so much—was engaged in giving away one by one to some poor children who appeared at the carriage, all the fine oranges that he had received at the previous station,- till not one was left of the pile beside him. A householder, I thought, would have reserved some, at least, to be taken home. When I had observed him thus far in silence, I was overcome by desire to talk to him, but having adopted the customs of the Western nations, I felt some difficulty in introducing myself. I struck upon a plan. I was then carrying with me some oranges of the finest quality plucked from the orange groves of the Wayanaad. I took out one of these and determined at last to break the silence. ‘Swamiji’, I said at last: ‘Would you mind, my offering you an orange?’ Those were the ‘fitting words’ with which I chose to break the silence; to which the saint replied rather pertinently, as I only realized later, ‘Have you failed to find that out in spite of having watched me all this time?’ Surely I had seen him receive a hundred oranges without any sort of protest, and felt for a moment how ridiculous a figure I cut in the presence of one whose manners belonged to the unalloyed past. This was how I met Sree Narayana Guru the first time in my’ life.”
To this effect, mainly, were the words of the officer. Coming from a perfect stranger to the - Swami this picture of him has its value in as much as it serves to show what the Swami appeared like to the eyes of a casual stranger.

- From 'The Way of the Guru' by Dr.P. Natarajan

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