Printing Press Stories
In 1945 I decided to wind up my printing press in Bombay in order to go and settle at Sri Ramanasramam. I had no pre-arranged plan for closing down my business; I merely relied on Sri Bhagavan. And he in turn responded to my devout prayer.
In the early hours of the morning, while I was still in my bed and only half awake, I saw a vision in which Sri Bhagavan appeared before me. By his side stood a gentleman whom I recognised as a friend of mine. He had neither been to the ashram nor had he ever exhibited any faith in Sri Bhagavan. The following conversation then took place between Sri Bhagavan and myself:
Bhagavan: You want to sell your press, don’t you?
Me: Yes, Bhagavan, but I must find a buyer.
Bhagavan: (showing my friend standing by his side) Here is the buyer. He will buy your press, so sell it to him.
Me: Since Sri Bhagavan has been kind enough to show me the buyer, may he also favour me by stating the amount at which I should execute the sale?
Sri Bhagavan then showed me five figures on the opposite wall that were shining like a neon sign. The amount indicated to me was quite reasonable, neither low nor exorbitant.
Sri Bhagavan and my friend then disappeared from my sight and the vision ended. By itself the vision was astonishing enough, but there was more to come. When I entered my press that day at 11 a.m., my friend from the vision was waiting there for me. Of course, he had come to see me about some other work and had no idea that he had been singled out as a prospective buyer. Feeling that Sri Bhagavan had sent him to me, I told him about the vision that had come to me a few hours before. He listened to me very attentively.
When I had finished my tale he simply commented, ‘I will buy your press at the price indicated by your Guru’.
There was no limit to my joy. My desire to sell was fulfilled by his grace and the sale was completed in less than a minute.
My original plan had been to sell all my property in Bombay and move directly to Sri Ramanasramam. However, when the devotees heard what I was planning to do, it was suggested to me that I could be of more use to the ashram in Bangalore. I was asked to start a printing press there that could execute all of Sri Ramanasramam’s printing work. I agreed to the idea and soon found myself in Bangalore, looking for suitable premises. I began to suspect that Sri Bhagavan had assisted the sale of my original press because he had work for me to do in Bangalore.
I was a stranger in the city but I soon located an old press that had been lying idle for the previous six months. It was for sale. I saw its proprietor and told him why I wished to buy his business. He agreed to sell it to me but we were unable to agree on a price. To break the deadlock I proposed that both of us should visit the ashram and suggested that we could talk about the deal after we had had Sri Bhagavan’s darshan. I thought that since Sri Bhagavan wanted me to do this work in Bangalore, his darshan might help to lubricate the wheels of the transaction.
The owner agreed to the idea, so we set off together for Sri Ramanasramam. On our arrival, I took him into the holy presence of Sri Bhagavan and informed him that I proposed to buy the press of the gentleman who was accompanying me, and that I planned to do all the ashram’s printing work there. Sri Bhagavan did not say anything; he just nodded his head.
Within a few hours of having had Sri Bhagavan’s darshan, there was a wonderful change in the attitude of the owner of the press. He approached me and agreed to sell his press for whatever price I was willing to pay for it. I stated a reasonable amount since I did not want to exploit him, and he happily accepted my offer. When he had agreed to come and see Sri Bhagavan with me he had made a stipulation that no business talks should take place at the ashram. However, after seeing Sri Bhagavan, he proposed that we settle our business immediately. We drafted and signed a sale agreement in the ashram itself and within a week of our visit the press came into my possession.
It was a fairly big press that enabled me to do all kinds of printing work in several languages. Because of the good facilities that were available there, I undertook to print ashram books in English, Tamil, Telugu, Hindi, Gujarati and Kannada.
The press, which was given the name ‘Aruna Press’ by Sri Bhagavan himself, had been idle for six months. It needed a lot of work to get it functioning again, but by Sri Bhagavan’s grace I was soon able to take up the ashram work that had been given to me.
In 1946, the devotees of Sri Bhagavan decided to celebrate a golden jubilee to commemorate Sri Bhagavan’s fifty years at Arunachala. He had arrived on September 1st, 1896, and on that same date in 1946 the ashram proposed to mark the occasion by a number of special events, one of which was the publication of a book entitled The Golden Jubilee Souvenir. The printing of this souvenir was entrusted to my press. Up till then, the press had only printed small books for the ashram. Since this was going to be a big volume of several hundred pages, I was initially reluctant to accept the work because I felt that I would not have enough time to complete it. However, once I overcame my diffidence and accepted the commission, help and cooperation began to pour in. Since some of it was wholly unexpected, I suspected that Sri Bhagavan’s divine grace was again at work.
At first, my initial fears appeared to be justified. When only ten days remained before the publication date, I had still not managed to print more than a small part of the book. I temporarily lost my courage and rushed off to the ashram.
I prostrated before Sri Bhagavan, told him about the lack of progress and informed him, ‘Unless the help of some other press is taken, the volume will not come out on the first of September’.
I then sat before him, enjoying his darshan, waiting for his reply. After a few moments of silence he said in a low melodious tone, ‘Do your work’.
These three simple words had a magical effect on me. They fired me with fresh vim and vigour and there arose in my heart a strong belief that the volume would surely be out on the scheduled date. I had received my orders from my Master. I had simply to obey and ‘do my work’. I had faith that all the other details would be looked after by him.
I returned to Bangalore and told the story of my experience at Sri Ramanasramam to my co-workers in the press. All of them accepted Sri Bhagavan’s order in the same spirit as I had done. For the next few days all of us worked day and night with full faith, zeal and enthusiasm. The amount of work turned out in those last ten days was, in retrospect, quite astonishing. Then, when three days remained till our deadline, a party of about ten devotees came to my house on its way to the ashram. They were going there to attend the golden jubilee celebrations. Three of them turned out to be expert bookbinders. I immediately enlisted their aid and managed to complete the work of the souvenir a day early.
Between 1945 and 1947 the Aruna Press printed all the publications of Sri Ramanasramam. The work was complex and I often found myself having to argue with the official at Sri Ramanasramam who had been put in charge of the publications there. The tension between us increased to the point where both of us decided that we should go to Sri Bhagavan to get our differences resolved.
The rest interval between noon and 2.30 p.m. was chosen for our meeting because we wanted to be alone with him. We went to the hall at noon and waited outside for him to return from lunch. On his way back he saw both of us waiting for him. Sensing that we had some business to discuss, he took his seat on the big stone couch that stood outside the hall. My friend immediately started to present his side of the dispute. However, it soon occurred to him that Sri Bhagavan was not comfortable sitting outside on this stone bench. He stopped in the middle of his plea, folded his hands in a respectful way, and requested Sri Bhagavan to go inside the hall. He said that the business should be conducted with Sri Bhagavan seated comfortably on his sofa.
Sri Bhagavan dismissed the appeal with a smile, saying, ‘What is wrong with this seat? Was there a soft bed and a sofa when I was up there [pointing to the hill]? Up there the bare stones served as my bed as well as my seat.’
It was clear that in our unseemly haste and our anxiety to plead our respective cases we had been responsible for causing this discomfort to him. Feeling very guilty about this, I felt very embarrassed when my friend’s request was turned down. In an anguished voice I begged Sri Bhagavan to follow the advice.
‘No, Bhagavan, no. That won’t do,’ I said. ‘It is our earnest prayer that you should not sit here in the hot sun. We will resume our talk only after you go into the hall and sit comfortably on the sofa.’
This time he accepted the advice. Neither of us knew why he finally agreed after rejecting the first appeal. He got up, went inside and, as requested, sat on his sofa. Both of us then placed our cases before him. He quietly listened to us and gave his verdict in the language of silence. Smiling with great charm he maintained complete silence both during and after the presentation of the arguments. The judgement was the best possible one for both of us. Sri Bhagavan’s silence had healed the breach. As we emerged from the hall both of us had a spontaneous impulse to embrace the other. In those few minutes our hearts had changed. We separated with the resolve to bury the past and to treat each other in future with love and friendship. The silken tie with which Sri Bhagavan bound us on that day has never snapped again.