One of my first meetings with Sri Nannagaru was outside on the grounds of his ashram in the incredibly spiritual community called Tiruvannamalai. It was a beautiful afternoon and when I drove up to Nannagaru's ashram I could see him in the distance sitting and talking with about 300 of his followers from around the world. As I got out of my car, Meenakshi
Mammi, one of Nannagaru's devoted followers, greeted me with a warm hug and immediately took my hand and walked me straight up to a seat right next to her beloved Master. Sitting at his feet and very aware that Meenakshi had made his other followers move over for my arrival, I tried my best to take up as little space as possible.
As Nannagaru was talking to the group he stopped in mid sentence, looked straight into my eyes and said, "humanity is God to you" and then went back to his discourse. Without a moments notice, tears were flooding my eyes. I had been sitting with this great Master for less than 3 minutes and already he was telling me something about myself that until that very moment I wasn't even aware.
Sri Nannagaru's Master was the renowned Advaitic teacher, Ramana Maharishi. Advaita is sometimes described as non-dualism. Ramana Maharishi is considered the greatest teacher of the power of self-enquiry in current times. He was born in 1879 and achieved enlightenment at the age of 17 through a remarkable experience, as if undergoing death of the physical body while remaining in full consciousness. Following this transformation, he left his home and was drawn irresistibly to the sacred hill of Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai
(near Bangalore) in India. There his ashram was formed and he never left that place for the rest of his life.
It was a great privilege and honor for me to interview one of Ramana's most illustrious disciples.
Janet: Sri Nannagaru, can you tell us a little about your life?
Sri Nannagaru: Thank you. I was born in West Godavari District, Andhra Pradesh. For the last 30 years I have been teaching about Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi's teachings and his life. I went to England twice to spread the message of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. I visited and
traveled through Andhra Pradesh and some parts of Maharashtra to teach there and to explain the teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. I was much influenced by his life and teachings.
We constructed a Ramana Ashram in our parts (note: i.e. Jinnuru Village) and three Ashrams in Tiruvannamalai: Andhra Ashram, Sri Nannagaru Ashram, and Siva Sannidhi. We are running a Telegu journal, bi-monthly called Ramana Bhaskara.
I did some social work in the name of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi and founded a Nannagaru Charitable Trust. We help many financially backward students in education and in healthcare, and
have helped many to construct houses. We gave many donations to deserving people, especially to students and to the elderly.
My life is intended to spread the message of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. We are teaching, in the name of devotion, the value and importance of education–how to grow in spiritual life and how to be happy in day-to-day life. Besides Ramana's teachings, we are also teaching social behaviour,
impersonal (note: detachment) behaviour, and intelligent behaviour.
Janet: What is enlightenment and what is the practical value of enlightenment for men and women today?
Sri Nannagaru: Enlightenment is the destination of humanity. If one man gets enlightenment it helps the whole world. Enlightenment – every enlightened person, every realised person, they can't do an ugly thing – they can't do. They can't do useless things.
All enlightened people are identified with the whole of humanity. They love the humanity truly, faithfully. Only from enlightenment comes, peace, happiness. Everything comes that is needed for man – from enlightenment only everything comes to man that is needed.
Enlightenment – if there is no enlightenment there will be no knowledge, no peace, and no happiness. Unenlightened person may get some diluted peace, some diluted happiness. Enlightened people only get undiluted happiness, unbroken peace. The enlightened people … they're practical. Every enlightened person is practical, and every enlightened person is in touch with ground realities.
They love sincerely and properly. They love the world truly, wisely also. Enlightened people, enlightened man's love only is real love, his word only is real word, his thought only is useful thought. Enlightened people are very essential to humanity, they are essential to society. Enlightened people are essential to society – they're rivers, enlightened people are rivers. From rivers canals flow, tanks flow, everything flows to irrigate lands. So also all enlightened people are like rivers. If the water is useful to society so also enlightened man is a must to society.
Every enlightened man is responsible, is accountable to the world. If he is not accountable to the world, if he is not responsible to the world, he is not an enlightened man. Suppose if a man wants to get fame, if a man wants to get name, if a man wants to get popularised in the world he is not an enlightened man. In the name … social work is one thing, enlightenment is one thing.
In the present day, not only in India, but throughout the world, all teachers, all spiritual teachers they have some knowledge of text books, but they are not doing tapas; they are not doing penance. These teachers want so many people, they want publicity – so many people want popularity and publicity – name and fame.
If the enlightenment is real if the enlightenment is proper, if he is really established in truth, in God, enlightenment, he does not hunger for power or for money or for anything. If something in the world, anything in the world, is attracting an enlightened man he is not an enlightened man. All enlightened people are above the world.
Without their effort, without their thought, without their knowing, they help us so much, so much, so much. They elevate the people spiritually, morally, courageously. They elevate the people, uplift the people, and educate the people without knowing. They don't know they are educating the people. They educate the people toward enlightenment, toward higher living and they encourage (without knowing it) by their presence that the hearts of the people should be purified, and so like him they want also to get enlightenment.
Every enlightened man is a big lamp, not 1,000 bulbs only, but hundreds of thousands of bulbs – every enlightened man – they give so much light. They are not bulbs, small bulbs, they are not little bulbs. They are like ships, they carry so many people from ignorance to knowledge – they are not small boats – they are big, big ships. They have no personal life, they have no individual life, they have no ego sense. Every enlightened man has common sense but he has no ego sense – he has common sense – and he is completely practically bounded – practicality.
They can't run away from the ground realities, they are part and parcel of the world. They live freely with humanity, they live freely, they mix freely with humanity. They don't need pomp, they don't need publicity. But it is very difficult, it is very, very difficult to understand an enlightened soul.
To reach the goal – to reach the goal it should be to become an enlightened man, by the grace of an enlightened soul, by the grace of a Guru. Guru doesn't mean enlightened man. Guru means truth-realized, God
realized, all-pervading realized, deathless-being realized is Guru, not educated man. He who is truth-realized, God-realized is only an enlightened man. Enlightenment is essentially the goal of humanity also.
Freedom, peace, happiness, immortality, undying spirit – everything – everything that is needed for us materially and spiritually only comes through enlightenment. Enlightenment means completeness, enlightenment means peace, perfect peace, permanent peace, unbroken peace, undiluted peace.
Enlightenment – every man, whether he knows or not, is trying to get enlightenment. Whether he knows it or not is a different thing. Because the world is so unhappy, so many people are unhappy, the world is unhappy – why? Because they don't know their real nature, they don't know who they are, they don't know what is their real heart, what is there in the heart. Because of lack of knowledge, lack of enlightenment, not only the world, but individuals also are so unhappy, are so full of tension and why? … because of lack of peace.
It is the selfless work that lifts us, materially and spiritually also – unselfish work is essential, unselfish work will help not only for the individual but humanity also. I want practical-oriented people, you can't run away from the ground realities, practicality is essential. You must try to translate noble thoughts into practicality and try to translate the noble thoughts into day-to-day life and teaching especially, teaching is most essential. So many religious institutions are also doing something, social work, but lack teaching. If we understand it properly, if we understand clearly the teachings of an enlightened soul, we will help the world in evolution, we will be the instruments of God, we will help in God's work and be absorbed in the Almighty.
Janet: What importance do our thoughts and our mind play for peace? How important are the thoughts that we think?
Sri Nannagaru: According to our Rig Veda, according to our Veda
(Vedas are a source for Hinduism) one thought is there, 'Let noble thoughts come to us from every side'. Let useful thoughts come to us from every side. Thought is very essential, good thought – if you want to do some good work, if you want to speak right speech, noble thoughts are essential. Action and speech spring from thought. If you want to attain good thoughts and noble thoughts, helpful to attain truth-realisation. That is very essential, good thoughts, noble thoughts are very essential. They guide us to truth, they guide us to freedom, they show the way to freedom.
This is a very important question, you must be far away, you must be very careful about ugly thoughts. You must be very careful about ugly thoughts, about unholy thoughts. Thoughts rule life – mind is a bundle of thoughts – thoughts rule life. If you want to cultivate good thoughts, noble thoughts, divine thoughts you have to make friends. The main thing is, the essential thing is holy company. Holy company is one thing and another thing is holy books – books like the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Koran – the holy books. Especially we should read only books written by, discoursed by truth-realised souls. Our speech, our word, our thought, our action, must be one, should be one. If our word, speech and thought are one, God's Grace will come, Divinity will help us to attain divinity and reading the good books. We should not read unrealised souls, we should not read the books written by merely worldly people.
If the book is written by a holy man, if the word is spoken by a holy man you, must give respect to them. So, first thing is holy company, next thing is good literature written by enlightened souls, spoken and discoursed by enlightened souls, and then do something … and you have to meditate on God – formless God, with form or without form. We have to remember God always. You have to remember God constantly. His name also you have to remember. God's name and God are one and the same. If you want to cultivate good thoughts, noble thoughts, remembrance of God, reading of holy books, friendship with holy people, some useful work to society, some service to backward classes, economically backward classes and handicapped people and if you cultivate love towards people, devotion to Almighty, certainly noble thoughts are bound to come to us.