CONVERSATIONS WITH ANNAMALAI SWAMI
SICKNESS OF JNANIS
Q: In order to have realized the Self, jnanis must have done a lot of punyas (merit) and tapas (practice) in their previous lives. If jnanis experience the fruits of all their previous punyas in their last life, they all ought to have very enjoyable last lives. This does not appear to be the case. Many of them get very sick. They often have to put up with a lot of body problems.
AS: There are several reasons for this. Sometimes Self-realization makes the body very weak. Bhagavan's body used to shake a lot. When he was asked about this he would sometimes say, 'If an elephant enters a weak hut, what will happen to the hut?' The elephant was Self-realization and the weak hut was his body.
Some jnanis take on the karma of some of their disciples and experience it themselves in the form of sickness. In such cases, the sickness cannot be attributed to anything that happened in the jnanis previous lives.
Most jnanis have got rid of most of their karma, both good and bad before they even start on their last life. They have all done tapas in their previous lives. By the time their last life starts they often have very little karma left. Only a few, like Vidyaranya Swami, have a lot of punya as left to enjoy.
Vidyaranya Swami lived several centuries ago. In one lifetime, when he was very poor and hungry, one of his gurus initiated him and told him to do upasana [meditation] on the Goddess Lakshmi [the goddess of wealth]. He did that upasana for years, hoping to get rich, but no wealth came to him in that lifetime.
In one of his subsequent births, he received initiation from a
jnani, did a lot of meditation and finally realized the Self. After realization, he was established in a state of total desirelessness. It was only after his realization that his previous upasana on Lakshmi started to bear fruit.
Sometime after his realization, gold started to fall from the sky into the city where he was living. Vidyaranya Swami realized that this was happening because of his previous meditations, but because he no longer had any desires, he no longer had any interest in accumulating money or gold. He told the king that the golden rain was falling on account of his previous tapas. He also made it clear that he didn't want any of gold for himself. The king announced that the people in the city could keep any gold which had fallen on their own property. He reserved the gold which had fallen on public property for his own use. The king later used his own share of the gold to build new temples and tanks.
The king took the gold which had fallen on the streets and made gold bricks out of it. In order to test whether Vidyaranya Swami was really desireless, the king put some of these bricks outside Vidyaranya Swami's house. Then he and his wife secretly watched to see what he would do with them. Vidyaranya Swami eventually came out of his house, saw the bricks and squatted on while he defecated. Because he no longer had any interest in money, that was the only useful thing he could do with them.
- Living by the Words of Bhagavan, p. 276