Sometime in March 1948, I had an interesting conversation with Bhagavan. His health was then rapidly declining and his body had lost much weight.

N. R. Krishnamurti Iyer: It is clear that Bhagavan, out of his infinite mercy and grace, cures even the fatal diseases of his devotees. Does not Bhagavan’s body suffer on that account?

Bhagavan: (speaking in English) Yes and no.

N. R. Krishnamurti Iyer: Please, Bhagavan, explain in more detail.

Bhagavan: The mukta purusha [liberated being] does not need his body once he has realized the Self. However, so long as he stays alive, he has the power to drain off devotees’ illnesses into his own body. That is why his body suffers for the time being. That is what is meant by the answer ‘yes’.

If he retires into the solitude of a quiet corner and remains in kevala nirvikalpa samadhi, completely oblivious of the body-world complex, the disease received in the body gets dissipated. When he returns to his body consciousness the body is cured and restored to its original health. The duration of that samadhi should be in adequate proportion to the seriousness of the disease concerned.

Sri Sankara Bhagavatpada, who attained Self-realisation at a very young age with a very healthy and strong body, was engaged in ceaseless activity in the state of sahaja samadhi. Out of his infinite mercy he gave relief to hosts of suffering people who came to him with all sorts of serious diseases. He was continuously active, day and night, and never cared to recoup his health by retiring into the solitude of kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. As a result he gave up his body while he was in his early thirties.
(The Power of the Presence, part one, pp. 172-3)

* * *
In the period that Bhagavan lived in Skandashram he went into a deep samadhi almost every day, usually during the daily evening chanting of Aksharamanamalai. He would be so deeply immersed in this state, the devotees would find it difficult to rouse him for the evening meal. In Enadu Ninaivugal Kunju Swami has related how devotees would shake him and blow a conch in his ear to bring him back to normal. When Bhagavan moved down the hill to Sri Ramanasramam, the frequency of these samadhis decreased, and devotees who were in regular contact with him at the end of the 1920s have reported that such instances were down to about two a week. In the 1930s they occurred more rarely. In the last fifteen years of his life such samadhis are not reported, though there are frequent mentions of Bhagavan going into a state of deep absorption in the Self. At these times he would sit with open unblinking eyes, utterly immobile.

Up till the mid-1930s Bhagavan appeared to be in vigorous, robust health. In film footage taken in 1935, the earliest available, he looks his age (mid-fifties) and appears to be in a good physical state. In films taken at the end of his life his body looks crippled and feeble, and he appears to be a man who is well into his eighties, rather than a man approaching seventy.

In the light of what Bhagavan told Krishnamurti Iyer in this conversation, it is tempting to relate Bhagavan’s good physical condition prior to 1935 to the samadhis that he regularly went into. However, it should also be remembered that visitors and devotees came to him in far fewer numbers during this period. It is possible that his accelerated aging between 1935 and 1950 was due to the far greater numbers of people he had to deal with every day.
(comment by David Godman, same source)