ANNAMALAI SWAMI REMEMBERED
Building works, part 17
Chinnaswami's managerial style alienated a lot of devotees but as a matter of principle Bhagavan nearly always supported him if he got into any disputes with devotees. Bhagavan himself frequently criticized Chinnaswami but that was prerogative he alone had. The rest of us had to suffer in silence. I remember one incident which illustrates this very well.
A woman once came to have Bhagavan's darshan. Because she was a very shy woman who didn't like eating in the company of men, she ate alone in a separate hut near the dining room. Instead of sending some woman devotee like Sampurnammal to serve food to her, Chinnaswami himself decided to deliver her food and serve it to her. When Bhagavan discovered what was happening he publicly rebuked him: 'Why don't you send one of the women to serve her? Why are you taking her food? She is very shy. She is not accustomed to dealing with strange men.'
Several devotees who had witnessed this scene began to think 'If Bhagavan treats Chinnaswami like this, why should we treat him with any respect?'
In the succeeding days these devotees began to treat Chinnaswami rather badly. Bhagavan observed this in silence for a few days.
When he saw that the disgruntled devotees were not going to change their attitude unless he intervened, he restored the status quo by telling them, 'Do you think that Chinnaswami is a killuk-kiraiai [a small plant which can easily be pulled out of the ground with one's fingernails and thrown away]? Chinnaswami is the sarvadhikari here. You should respect his position and follow his instructions.'
When the work on the cowshed was finally over Chinnaswami wrote to Rangaswami Gounder, the man who had given the cowshed which had been turned into a storeroom.
'We have completed a big cowshed. You can come and yourself. Please don't be angry with us anymore.'
Rangaswami Gounder accepted the invitation and was delighted to see what a big cowshed we had built. He kept his original promise and donated several cows to the ashram.
As he was being shown around the cowshed he remarked.
'When I saw that Chinnaswami had spent my earlier donation on a storeroom instead of a cowshed, I quite naturally got angry with him. I thought that he had wasted all my money. Now that this new cowshed, which is much bigger than the one I had planned, has been built, I am happy and content. Everything has turned out well in the end.'
Chinnaswami was also a happy man. In the closing stages of the work the ashram had received so many donations for the cowshed that there was a lot of money to spare when the work was finally completed. This put Chinnaswami into an unusually exuberant mood.
'Whenever you work for the ashram in future,' he told me, 'get the work done by throwing money wherever it is needed. Bhagavan will provide whatever is needed.'
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan p. 57