[The mistery of death leat Guatama to Enlighten ment. Christ is said to have come to reveal the conquest of spirit over death. Almost all the great saints like Sai Baba of Shirdi had set their foot on the other side of death, while they were alive. It was the fear of impending death that had brought Reali zation to Ramanamaharshi. Lord Krishna declared that he alone knew the mystery of death and not Arjuna. Mother in her characterstic way of silent demonstration had unravelled the mystery of death; that life does not depend on breath; that life and death are not mysteries to her. – Translater.]
SRI SEETHAPATHI who had left his home to fetch a doctor was broken by the sudden news of Rangamma’s death. He returned to Bapatla next morning accompanied by Sri Venkatasubbaiah. No sooner he stepped into the gate, he heard the loud wailings from inside the house and fell in a swoon. Every one rushed to him and nursed him to his senses and tried in vain to console as they led him into the house. Seethapathi could not restrain his tears however much he tried to do so and every one that saw the goodman weep was deeply moved.
The body of Rangamma, was laid on the floor, completely shrouded. When Sri Seethapathi stood by the body, the face of the corps was unveiled. Her face was peaceful and the lips seemed to be smiling at him.
Yes, how fortunate was she! She passed away happily. But he was very unfortunate. What was to become of the children and the house hold? How can he live alone?
Seethapathi was stupified under the burden of cares and fears. He was aware that he was firmly held by the hands of Venkata Subbaiah. But he felt that his hands had been mutilated, his legs broken, his heart plundered, his mind badly crushed; he felt as though he was cast in mid ocean. His sorrow knew no bounds.
Sri Chidambara Rao came there with Mother in his hands, Seetapati burst into tears again at the sight of his daughter. At once he hugged her close to his heart and cried out wildly “Child, your mother is dead”- Mother was looking steadily into his eyes, unmoved.
“you no longer have your mother…… repeated as tears flowed profusely from his eyes, “She has deserted us, child”! “He
Mother was calm and composed her as delicate hands wiped the tears from his cheeks and caressed his chin. Thinking that Mother is foo innocent to understand him, Seethapathi again said “your mother has left us forever.”
“Where has she gone?” Mother gently asked.
“Yes! where has she gone?” Seethapathi muttered as though to himself.
“But tell me father, whence has she come?”
“She’s deal!…….. your mother has expired,” Seethapathi tried to explain her.
“What is death….” She asked as she turned his face towards her with her tiny hands and staring into his eyes.
“Your mother has left us”….
“No, she has not left us; she is here after all!” Mother pointed at the body lying on the floor. There was not a tear in Mother’s eyes, no change in her expression; every one was surpised at her absolute innocence. Verkatasubbaiah who thought Mother would be too frightened to know the truth stopped Seethapathi’s mouth and said to the child “your mother is sleeping
“If she is simply sleeping, why are all these people weeping? She has been sleeping every day. But no one wept all these days!” She quickly darted her query. Venkatasubbaiah was dumbfounded.
Sri Chidambara Rao took the child from Seethapathi and led both the father and the daughter up the stairs.
“Grandpa, what does death really mean?” The child asked Chidambararao who started search ing for a simple answer. Mother again asked, “Whence do these come?”
“From the womb of the mother!”
“Then, will there be children always in the mother’s womb?”
“Then whence do they come into the womb?
“God send them thither”.
“Then whither do they go at death?”
“To the cremation ground”
“Then if she (Refering to Rangamma’s body) is not carried to the cremation ground, does it mean that she is still alive?”
“What questions are these!!”
“But tell me grandpa, whither do they go?”
“They reach God.”
“It is His pleasure”.
“When the one whom He had sent, returns to God at His pleasure, why should we weep?”
Even in the depths of his grief Chidambara Rao laughed loudly, hugged her and kissed her cheeks, and said
“Who taught you metaphysics?”
Seethapathi fogot all his grief and stared at his daughter in wonder.
“You tell me father-why should we grieve about that?” she asked.
“But your mother has gone for ever!”
“Who, really, is my mother? It is the one that is gone? or is this body (that is here), my mother? If she is the body then she has not left us. If the one that has left us is my mother, we had never seen her. Then why this grief?”
Both Seethapathi and Chidambara Rao were asked to go downstairs by some one there. Mother wished to stay there and so they left her there. It was already noon. The body of Rangamma was being given a ceremonial bath. Sri Bapatla Venkata Raro came to Mother and said “Come on child, they are going to take your mother; you won’t be able to see her any more.” Both of them went downstairs and stood uner a palm tree.
Rangamma’s body had been given the ceremonial bath with all the sacred incantations. The body was also decorated. Mother smiled to herself as she witnessed all this. Everyone was bowing before the body in a tearful farewell. Mother was also asked to do so. When Mother was about to move, the leaf of the palm tree dropped on her head. Venkata Rao looked up at the tree. There was none above: nor the leaf dry enough to break of itself. But it did fall. While he was seeking out the cause Mother muttered as she moved. That which is above all causes alone is the cause of this.” Then she went and bowed before the feet of Rangamma limp body. All those who were present were deeply touched at the sight of her. Her brother Raghava Rao tearfully pleaded that a photo be taken of Rangamma before the body is removed. So a Photographer was taken of her while her head was held in position from behind the chair by Seethapathi.
As Rangamma’s body was being moved from the chair to the bier, Venkata Rao took Mother upstairs. Mother sat in a window and was viewing the whole scene therefrom. As the body-the body that is soon to be reduced to a handfull of dust; and the form that had been dear to so many and was to vanish from their sight once and for all-was lifted to be carried to the cremation ground as voices lou lly called our ‘Narayana’ amidst the loud wailing. There was the burning of incourse and all sacred materials were sprinkled all over the body by the group of relatives that walked beside the carriers of the bier. Seethapathy who was a picture of grief personified walked along mechanically.
Calling Mother’s attention from the azure depths of the heavens to the earth Venkatarao said “Look! Your mother is going!!”
Mother turned her gaze from the distant sky to the procession down below and said.
“It’s not mother only that’s going; all are going
“Is it the same with all of them?” He exclaimed.
“She is lying and they are walking; that’s all the difference; is it not so?” she said.
“Besides, they are walking; she is being carried by them” he replied.
“Then don’t they carry us (in a palanquin) when we were brought from Mannava?” she asked.
“Poor girl! the Spirit (of life) that is in us all now is no longer there in her, that’s why we say that she’s gone!”
“Now you say that she is gone; again you say that she is going; after all, tell me sir, is she the body or the spirit?”
“No girl, I can’t answer your questions. your grandfather, Chidambararao must them” Only answer
Venkatarao kept Monther’s company till evening telling her of something or the other. Perhaps she did not amaze him with any more of her ridding questions. At dusk, when she was brought down into the house, she felt the wick in the lamp appeared to be longer than one foot. Immediately she called out for Chidambararao crying “My mother is being consumed by the flames!”
“Where is it child?” he cried in astonishment. He found her staring fixedly into the flame. She described to him all that took place in the cremation ground in detail. Chidambara Rao was surprised at the accuracy and detail of the description for she never visited that place and definitely not on that day. As she continued her description, he fixed his eyes on her in amazement and kept attentively listening to her.
On the fourthday after Rangamma’s death, the pet cat in the house was lingering between life and death under the tree in the backyard. Mother called Chidambararao to that spot and asked him “Sir, why is the cat lying like this?”
“It’s about to die, girl”.
The whole body of the cat was quivering, and it’s sides were heaving, its nostrils were jumping. Mother put her finger near its nostrils, and bent her head to have a closer look and found her own image in the eyes of the cat. She immediately cried “What’s this! I am seeing myself in the eyes of the Cat!! Now that I see myself reflected in the eys of the cat. Can’t I see myself reflected in my own eyes?”
“Why not! it’s after all your eyes that are percieving your form reflected in the eyes of the cat”
“Yes, grandpa-though it is the eyes that look, it is the cognition (mind) that recognises it that cognition is myself. But why can I not see my form (reflected) directly in my own eyes?”
As she finished her question, she found that breathing in the cat had ceased. At the same moment Mother perceives certain dimness overtake it’s eye balls that rendered her reflection indistinct.
“What has happened?” she asked.
“The cat’s dead” Chidambara Rao replied.
“Oh, is this death after all! Does death mean the ceasing of breath?”
“The spark of life goes off when breathing stops” he told her.”
“Is it so for all?”
So asking, Mother put her finger near her own nostrills and started Soon observing her breath. her breathing stopped. Even under his nose, Chilambararao found that his grand daughter had transcended the bondage of the external world. As he was astonished. Mother returned to her normal consciousness. Avain she put her finger near her nostril, observed her breath.. and immediately all breathing stopped in her
At firs, Chidambara Rao felt panicky but as he has all along been observing the child, her words of profoun wisdom, her actions of mystic pro fundity, her transcendence of worldliness, he immediately realised that she could attam Samadhi, the hi hest level of conciousness and that she had absolute control over it and over her body: he was besides himself with joy and wonder. Whence this Wisdom? Whence this spiritual discipline?” he wondered.
The silence of the one who declared herself to be the Reality, and who had already established herself as the bestower of spiritual experiences to all creatures, was the only answer which he probably grasped and grasped not!