I had not heard of Sri Ram, a Hyderabad-based professor of English in a government polytechnic, until a friend introduced me to him through a couple of articles. I was struck by the professor’s perspective which seemed both unique and interesting. I was also told, that despite being extremely low-key, he had innumerable followers (he calls them spiritual relatives), particularly within the civil service, and that he is remarkable for his capacity to produce miracles, and to predict the future.
Recently, when he came down to Mumbai, I had the occasion to meet him, in the said friend’s house. In appearance there is nothing to distinguish him. Bespectacled, dark-complexioned, dressed in a full-sleeved shirt and trousers, he could pass for a bank manager. But once he starts to speak, it is altogether a different matter. Like a true mystic he reveals a heart afire with love for God and nature. Like William Blake, he takes nothing in life for granted. Every natural phenomenon, whether it be a hen laying an egg, or the presence of the sugar cane plant, is for him a fresh testimony of the inexhaustible intelligence and love of God. Naturally then, he overflows with faith in the Creator, and a stout conviction that this is the best of all possible worlds.
Excerpts from the exhilarating interview:
You are well known for your capacity to create miracles, like producing a saligrama out of nowhere. How do you have this capacity?
The healthy answer to this question is there is nothing that is not miraculous in the universe. Look at a handful of sugar. It seems ordinary. But look at the sugar cane plant. It has small thin roots of about 10-12 cms long. It will draw a little soil and water, and by the time these pass through the roots they turn into sugar. Take a 100 Nobel prize winners and give them some soil and water and give them a 100 years. Can they convert that into sugar? This is being done by a little plant that never went to MIT or Stanford, so silently, so magically, so miraculously… And that handful of sugar is so ordinary for us. When you hold that sugar, your hand must shiver!
Man is the Mt Everest of miracles. Just in nine months in the darkness of the womb of the mother, some mysterious hand sculpts the life of the baby. If a parent is not enlightened by the birth of the baby, nobody can enlighten him.
Look at a buffalo. It eats a little grass and converts the grass into milk in a day. Of course the intelligence of the buffalo’s body does it. That is a different thing. But give a heap of grass to a thousand Einsteins and tell them to take 100 years to make a cup of milk. It is a feat impossible for us. But here is a buffalo that does it. And how do you look at a buffalo? We should be joining our hands in reverence to it. Instead, if a student is a little dull, the teacher calls him a buffalo.
Let me give another example. Every day the hen lays an egg, after eating a handful of grain. First the shell has to be converted into calcium. Then the exact oval shape has to be formed, and the yolk has to be formed. The hen never went to a university. So from this perspective when you hold an egg, you should feel as if you are holding a shivalinga.
To answer your question, all of life is a miracle.
I agree that nature’s miracles are superior to yours, but how do you make your miracles?
Before I answer the question, let me give you the intention behind the miracles. Sometimes, when we come into the spiritual field, we are encrusted with a thick crust of ignorance. A miracle is to bore a hole through that thick crust. That too only for a person who is ripe enough, when the time is right enough. Krishna taught Arjuna the Gita. He was available to all Pandavas, but he only taught Arjuna the Gita.
But miracles have their limitation. Let us say that a chemistry lecturer creates water by mixing a little hydrogen with a little oxygen and a catalyst. The lecturer is hinting at a probability that two gases can convert into water, which people would otherwise not believe. So he performs an experiment. That doesn’t mean that once he comes out of the laboratory and finds no rain in the city, he would be able to convert all the available hydrogen and oxygen in the environment into water.
Similarly, a miracle can hint at the possibility of the Ultimate Power. That does not mean you are all-powerful. There ends the role of a small miracle. To convince a person to believe what he would not have normally believed. Unless the small miracle takes you to the bigger miracle of life, the small miracle is useless.
But the question remains, how do you make the miracles!?
The answer to your question is another question. You are now listening to me. And a deaf person close by marvels at your power to hear. He asks you, how are you able to hear. Can you explain?
So I don’t know how I do it, just as you don’t know how you hear or digest food. At the right and ripe time, these things happen. And therefore they are not possible at all times. It all depends on the eligibility of the person to whom you are doing the miracle, the ability of the person doing the miracle, and the cosmic desirability of it. All these things make the miracle happen. For example, Swami Vivekananda underwent a transformation when Ramakrishna Paramahansa touched him. There were other disciples but only Vivekananda was chosen. There was also the ability of Ramakrishna, and the cosmic desirability. Vivekananda was to leave the planet at age 32. His duty was to put India on the world map of religions. So the intersection of these three things make a miracle.
But remember that the ability to make a miracle is not a great ability. Some people say they can fly in the air. My feeling is all the powers we don’t have are the powers we don’t need. Otherwise, nature would have given them. Look at our body, everything has a functional significance. Is there anything in the body which is not functional? The very fact that I have not been given the ability to fly means I don’t need to fly. Birds need to fly. I don’t need to. The power to lift this glass is more useful and needed than the power to create vibhuti.
How did you move into spirituality?
I was just not aware of how it happened. Just as a child grows imperceptibly into an adult. Or the way I learnt to read. The process was so gradual, so spontaneous, that I just did not notice it. Two sentences can sum me up. I am an incurable lover of life and nature. And I am an uttermost student of these. As far as I am concerned the best book I have ever read or that has ever been written is the book of Nature.
Creation is a concrete, visible, tangible autobiography of the Creator himself. Many people have written books about the Creator. Much of God’s biography is an unconscious autobiography of the author himself. But when it comes to nature it is a visible autobiography of God. Can you read nature? Shakespeare said there were sermons in stones and books in running brooks. The leaves of a tree can teach you much more than the leaves of any book. So I spend a lot of time in nature. And I used to wonder at nature.
So right from the beginning you had a sense of active wonder?
Gradually it happened. I used to wonder at the hen. Plucking a rose, I used to wonder how mud and water could transform into this mesmerising rose petal. Only God could have done it. Only an immortal power could have done it. My personal understanding is that God is not a person but a power that is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, and which manifests itself in any way we need. For instance when I want to eat something I need matter. But to prepare food, I need energy. We need both. The cosmic reality manifests itself in both these forms because we need both. Similarly, this Power manifests itself in any form that we need. That Power can be called God. The Power that transforms mud and water into sugar, I want to call that Power God.
So the sense of wonder used to haunt me. With that view, I pluck a rose flower. The minute I do that, my puja is over. Keeping that at the feet of God is a ritual. I already felt God in the presence of a flower. I already realised how difficult a miracle it is. Through it you become aware of the inexhaustible love, incomprehensible intelligence of God getting manifested everywhere.
To return to your question about miracles, the moment the sense of wonder is deep enough, the question is deep enough, you are led to the answers. How, you don’t know. Nature whispers gently into your ears once you understand the language of nature. To understand the language of nature, spend more time in nature. I used to spend a lot of time in nature. After college I used to walk into paddy fields, and sugar cane plants. Sitting quietly, watching the sunset. Spending a lot of time in moonlit nights. Looking at the moon, counting the stars, wondering at the universe.
You never lost that sense of wonder?
At any stage if someone has lost the sense of wonder, he has stopped feeling the presence of God. Nature is an inexhaustible storehouse of wonder. For example, it was raining when I was flying here from Hyderabad. For an ordinary man, it is just clouds. Nature’s intention is to bless us with rain. For that you will not believe the number of things it has to do. First, it has to lift the water from the sea, by creating summer. Summer is the source of rain. Summer and rain, they are not opposite. They are both necessary.
A slight digression. The first thing that has to be kept in mind is that we are living in a dualistic world. Birth and death, good and bad, tears and smiles. They are both necessary. They appear to be opposites, but they are not. Apparently contradictory, inherently complementary. If you were to try to remove sorrow and retain joy, it is not possible. Any more than you can remove summer and retain rain. Between two sunrises there is and ought to be a sunset. Between two rainy seasons there is summer. Between two peaks there is a valley. Can you imagine two peaks without a valley inbetween? Impossible. These are dualistic inevitabilities. Similarly between two births there will be death.
To return to how nature makes rain. First, it must lift up the water into the sky in the form of vapour. Then it must store these water molecules without blocking the sun. When the time is ripe all the water molecules must condense and form rain. That too, not all at once. In instalments, for the period of three months. That too carrying the clouds all over India. What a difficult task. It arouses a tremendous sense of wonder. Everything is worth wondering about. You are alive only as long as you retain that quality.
Having just grown naturally into spirituality, did you ever feel you were different from other people?
The truth is that everyone is different. A blade of grass is as necessary as a big banyan tree. There is no hierarchy in life. There is only variety. A peon is as important as a prime minister. A less intelligent person is as important as a more intelligent person. In fact society needs less intelligent people more – the people who work in our house, who lay our roads. If Nobel Prize winners are absent nothing happens to society. But if less intelligent people disappear, there would be a problem. If all blades of grass were to become banyan trees, how would the cattle graze? If all banyan trees would become blades of grass where would the cattle take shelter? Similarly, we are enacting our own roles. Each role is unique. A banyan tree is bigger than a rose but not greater.
How would you define spirituality?
The root word of spirituality in Greek is enthusiasm –which means God within. The enthusiastic person is the one who is so joyous that he is perennially in touch with the God within. Spirituality makes you enthusiastic in life. You can dance your way to death. That is possible when you recognise the Highest Power and get connected to that. The truth is that you are connected but you are not aware of it. When you are connected, you know that there is something that will come to your help when you need it.
Why did you decide to become a professor of English?
It just happened naturally.
You were also studying for the civil services but they say that you deliberately did not complete your exams.
I was appearing for my history and psychology exam. I wrote the history part but when it came to psychology, somehow I was with my friend Shivaji. There was a movie nearby. I did not feel like writing the test. I felt like going for the movie!
Maybe not getting into the civil services was good for me. I don’t know. Sometimes, nature creates a person for a particular role. Not a role he wants to play. When nature’s role for you is different from the role you choose for yourself, naturally you are not allowed to do that. Nature will prevail. She is more intelligent than I am. That is how I console myself.
Later I wanted to use that knowledge so I started helping others who were aspiring for the civil services.
It seems you are a born teacher.
My personal feeling was that whenever I taught something, I got back much more. What you teach is more useful for you than for the one who is taught. Similarly, what you speak is more needed by you than by the listener.
Did you have a guru?
My only guru is nature.
Generally we see that intellectuals and scientists do not embrace spirituality.
That is because their definition of God is different from our definition of God. Their definition is Biblical so there is bound to be conflict. But if your definition of God is of a power that converts mud and water into sugar cane, there will be no atheists in the world. Atheists exist because they do not have the right definition of God.
What do you think of the present times we are living in?
Things are what they are. Nature creates only that which is necessary. The present times are what they ought to be.
What lies ahead for us?
What ought to lie ahead. If I were to watch an artist trying to draw a human head, and all I saw was one strand of hair, I would not be able to understand what was being created. Similarly, we are unable to understand the grand plan for the Universe because of our narrow perspective. Such a Power does not allow anything that is bad. Or that is unnecessary for us. When the mother gives birth to the child, she cries. When the child is denied a chocolate when suffering from jaundice, it feels that the mother is cruel to him.
For the ordinary person, a lion is dangerous and a deer is kind. But when the deer grazes, hundreds of blades of grass go into its mouth. For the blades of grass, the deer is the most cruel creature in the world.
There is talk of a New Age which is going to be more harmonious, happier…
Which is more beautiful, spring or summer? Everything is as important for us, if you look at things holistically. What is unnecessary for us creates what is necessary for us. Winter is not necessary for us but it creates spring. So the present times too are necessary to create the New Age.
In short, accept everything, reject nothing!
Exactly. Adulthood is as good as childhood, which is as good as old age.