Ramana Maharshi Bio


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Bhagavan Ramana

by T. M. P. MAHADEVAN, M. A.,
Ph.D.

Professor of Philosophy, University
of Madras

Published by

V. S. RAMANAN

President, Board of
Trustees

SRI RAMANASRAMAM

TIRUVANNAMALAI 606-603

SOUTH INDIA

Reprinted from Ramana Maharshi and
His Philosophy of Existence

 

© Sri Ramanasramam,
Tiruvannamalai 606-603, Tamil Nadu, India
1989

 


 

PREFACE

THE present essay was originally
written for a book on The Saints; and it appears as General
Introduction in a work on Bhagavan entitled Ramana Maharshi
and His Philosophy of Existence. As it is felt that this
essay may be of interest to the general readers, it is being
issued separately also in the form of a booklet.

 

May Bhagavan accept this
offering!

Aradhana Day T. M. P. MAHADEVAN May
5, 1959.

 

 

 

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INVOCATION

O – Vinayaka, who wrote on a scroll
(i.e., the slopes of Mt. Meru) the words of the Great Sage
(i.e., Vyasa) and who presides at the victorious Arunachala,
do remove the disease (i.e. maya) that is the cause of
repeated births, and protect graciously the great Noble
Faith (i.e., the Upanisadic philosophy and religion) which
brims with the honey of the Self.

 

This a prayer to Lord Ganesa, the
Remover of all obstacles, composed by Bhagavan Sri Ramana.
Reference is made to the Puranic story that Ganesa served as
a scribe to Vyasa and wrote down the Mahabharata and His
Grace is here invoked for the protection of the Vedanta
philosophy. The printed Tamil verse is a facsimile of
Bhagavan’s own handwriting.

 

 

 

——————————————————————————–

 

 

BHAGAVAN RAMANA

THE Scriptures tell us that it is as
difficult to trace the path a sage pursues as it is to draw
a line marking the course a bird takes in the air while on
its wings. Most humans have to be content with a slow and
laborious journey towards the goal. But a few are born as
adepts in flying non-stop to the common home of all beings –
the supreme Self. The generality of mankind takes heart when
such a sage appears. Though it is unable to keep pace with
him, it feels uplifted in his presence and has a foretaste
of the felicity compared to which the pleasures of the world
pale into nothing. Countless people who went to
Tiruvannamalai during the life-time of Maharshi Sri Ramana
had this experience. They saw in him a sage without the
least touch of worldliness, a saint of matchless purity, a
witness to the eternal truth of Vedanta. It is not often
that a spiritual genius of the magnitude of Sri Ramana
visits this earth. But when such an event occurs, the entire
humanity gets benefited and a new era of hope opens before
it.

 

About thirty miles south of Madurai
there is a village Tirucculi by name with an ancient Siva
temple about which two of the great Tamil saints,
Sundaramurti and Manikkavacakar, have sung. In this sacred
village there lived in the latter part of the nineteenth
century an uncertified pleader, Sundaram Aiyar with his wife
Alagammal. Piety, devotion and charity characterised this
ideal couple. Sundaram Aiyar was generous even beyond his
measure. Alagammal was an ideal Hindu wife. To them was born
Venkataraman – who later came to be known to the world as
Ramana Maharshi – on the 30th of December, 1879. It was an
auspicious day for the Hindus, the Ardra-darsanam day. On
this day every year the image of the Dancing Siva, Nataraja,
is taken out of the temples in procession in order to
celebrate the divine grace of the Lord that made Him appear
before such saints as Gautama, Patanjali, Vyaghrapada, and
Manikkavacaka. In the year 1879 on the Ardra day the
Nataraja Image of the temple at Tirucculi was taken out with
all the attendant ceremonies, and just as it was about to
re-enter, Venkataraman was born. There was nothing markedly
distinctive about Venkataraman’s early years. He grew up
just as an average boy. He was sent to an elementary school
in Tirucculi, and then for a year’s education to a school in
Dindigul. When he was twelve his father died. This
necessitated his going to Madurai along with the family and
living with his paternal uncle Subbaiyar. There he was sent
to Scott’s Middle School and then to the American Mission
High School. He was an indifferent student, not at all
serious about his studies. But he was a healthy and strong
lad. His school mates and other companions were afraid of
his strength. If some of them had any grievance against him
at any time, they would dare play pranks with him, only when
he was asleep. In this he was rather unusual : he would not
know of anything that happened to him during sleep. He would
be carried away or even beaten without his waking up in the
process.

 

It was apparently by accident that
Venkataraman heard about Arunachala when he was sixteen
years of age. One day an elderly relative of his called on
the family in Madurai. The boy asked him where he had come
from. The relative replied “From Arunachala”. The very name
‘Arunachala’ acted as a magic spell on Venkataraman, and
with an evident excitement he put his next question to the
elderly gentleman, “What! From Arunachala! Where is it?” And
he got the reply that Tiruvannamalai was
Arunachala.

 

Referring to this incident the Sage
says later on in one of his hymns to Arunachala : ‘Oh, great
wonder! As an insentient hill it stands. Its action is
difficult for anyone to understand. From my childhood it
appeared to my intelligence that Arunachala was something
very great. But even when I came to know through another
that it was the same as Tiruvannamalai I did not understand
its meaning. When, stilling my mind, it drew me up to it,
and I came close, I found that it was the
Immovable.’

 

Quickly following the incident which
attracted Venkataraman’s attention to Arunachala, there was
another happening which also contributed to the turning of
the boy’s mind to the deeper values of spirituality. He
chanced to lay his hands, on a copy of Sekkilar’s
Periyapuranam which relates the lives of the Saiva saints.
He read the book and was enthralled by it. This was the
first piece of religious literature that he read. The
example of the saints fascinated him; and in the inner
recesses of his heart he found something responding
favourably. Without any apparent earlier preparation, a
longing arose in him to emulate the spirit of renunciation
and devotion that constituted the essence of saintly
life.

 

The spiritual experience that
Venkataraman was now wishing devoutly to have came to him
soon, and quite unexpectedly. It was about the middle of the
year 1896; Venkataraman was seventeen then. One day he was
sitting up alone on the first floor of his uncle’s house. He
was in his usual health. There was nothing wrong with it.
But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death took hold of
him. He felt he was going to die. Why this feeling should
have come to him he did not know. The feeling of impending
death, however, did not unnerve him. He calmly thought about
what he should do. He said to himself, “Now, death has come.
What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body
dies.” Immediately thereafter he lay down stretching his
limbs out and holding them stiff as though rigor mortis had
set in. He held his breath and kept his lips tightly closed,
so that to all outward appearance his body resembled a
corpse. Now, what would happen? This was what he thought :
“Well, this body is now dead. It will be carried to the
burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But
with the death, of this body am I dead? Is the body I? This
body is silent and inert. But I feel the full force of my
personality and even the voice of the ‘I’ within me, apart
from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body
dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by
death. That means I am the deathless Spirit”. As Bhagavan
Sri Ramana narrated this experience later on for the benefit
of his devotees it looked as though this was a process of
reasoning. But he took care to explain that this was not so.
The realization came to him in a flash. He perceived the
truth directly. ‘I’ was something very real, the only real
thing. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. From
then on, ‘I’ continued like the fundamental sruti note that
underlies and blends with all the other notes. Thus young
Venkataraman found himself on the peak of spirituality
without any arduous or prolonged sadhana. The ego was lost
in the flood of Self-awareness. All on a sudden the boy that
used to be called Venkataraman had flowered into a sage and
saint.

 

There was noticed a complete change
in the young sage’s life. The things that he had valued
earlier now lost their value. The spiritual values which he
had ignored till then became the only objects of attention.
School-studies, friends, relations – none of these had now
any significance for him. He grew utterly indifferent to his
surroundings. Humility, meekness, non-resistance and other
virtues became his adornment. Avoiding company he preferred
to sit alone, all-absorbed in concentration on the Self. He
went to the Minaksi temple every day and experienced an
exaltation every time he stood before the images of the gods
and the saints. Tears flowed from his eyes profusely. The
new vision was constantly with him. His was the transfigured
life.

 

Venkataraman’s elder brother
observed the great change that had come upon him. On several
occasions he rebuked the boy for his indifferent and
yogi-like behaviour. About six weeks after the great
experience the crisis came. It was the 29th of August, 1896.
Venkataraman’s English teacher had asked him, as a
punishment for indifference in studies, to copy out a lesson
from Bain’s Grammar three times. The boy copied it out
twice, but stopped there, realizing the utter futility of
that task. Throwing aside the book and the papers, he sat
up, closed his eyes, and turned inward in meditation. The
elder brother who was watching Venkataraman’s behaviour all
the while went up to him and said : “What use is all this to
one who is like this?” This was obviously meant as a rebuke
for Venkataraman’s unworldly ways including neglect of
studies. Venkataraman did not give any reply. He admitted to
himself that there was no use pretending to study and be his
old self. He decided to leave his home; and he remembered
that there was a place to go to, viz. Tiruvannamalai. But if
he expressed his intention to his elders, they would not let
him go. So he had to use guile. He told his brother that he
was going to school to attend a special class that noon. The
brother thereupon asked him to take five rupees from the box
below and pay it as his fee at the college where he was
studying. Venkataraman went downstairs; his aunt served him
a meal and gave him the five rupees. He took out an atlas
which was in the house and noted that the nearest railway
station to Tiruvannamalai mentioned there was Tindivanam.
Actually, however, a branch line had been laid to
Tiruvannamalai itself. The atlas was an old one, and so this
was not marked there. Calculating that three rupees would be
enough for the journey, Venkataraman took that much and left
the balance with a letter at a place in the house where his
brother could easily find them, and made his departure for
Tiruvannamalai. This was what he wrote in that letter : “I
have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with his
command. This (meaning his person) has only embarked on a
virtuous enterprise. Therefore, no one need grieve over this
act. And no money need be spent in search of this. Your
college fee has not been paid. Herewith rupees
two.”

 

There was a curse on Venkataraman’s
family – in truth, it was a blessing – that one out of every
generation should turn out to be a mendicant. This curse was
administered by a wandering ascetic who, it is said, begged
alms at the house of one of Venkataraman’s forbears, and was
refused. A paternal uncle of Sundaram Aiyar’s became a
sannyasin; so did Sundaram Aiyar’s elder brother. Now, it
was the turn of Venkataraman, although no one could have
foreseen that the curse would work out in this manner.
Dispassion found lodgement in Venkataraman’s heart, and he
became a parivrajaka.

 

It was an epic journey that
Venkataraman made from Madurai to Tiruvannamalai. About noon
he left his uncle’s house. He walked to the railway station
which was half a mile way. The train was running fortunately
late that day; otherwise he would have missed it. He looked
up the table of fares and came to know that the third-class
fare to Tindivanam was two rupees and thirteen annas. He
bought a ticket, and kept with him the balance of three
annas. Had he known that there was a rail-track to
Tiruvannamalai itself, and had he consulted the table of
fares, he would have found that the fare was exactly three
rupees. When the train arrived, he boarded it quietly and
took his seat. A Maulvi who was also travelling entered into
conversation with Venkataraman. From him Venkataraman learnt
that there was train-service to Tiruvannamalai and that one
need not go to Tindivanam but could change trains at
Viluppuram. This was a piece of useful information. It was
dusk when the train reached Tiruccirappalli. Venkataraman
was hungry; he bought two country pears for half an anna;
and strangely enough even with the first bite his hunger was
appeased. About three o’clock in the morning the train
arrived at Viluppuram. Venkataraman got off the train there
with the intention of completing the rest, of the journey to
Tiruvannamalai by walk.

 

At daybreak he went into the town,
and was looking out for the sign-post to Tiruvannamalai. He
saw a sign-board reading ‘Mambalappattu’ but did not know
then that Mambalappattu was a place en route to
Tiruvannamalai. Before making further efforts to find out
which road he was to take, he wanted to refresh himself as
he was tired and hungry. He went up to a hotel and asked for
food. He had to wait till noon for the food to be ready.
After eating his meal, he proffered two annas in payment.
The hotel proprietor asked him how much money he had. When
told by Venkataraman that he had only two and a half annas,
he declined to accept payment. It was from him that
Venkataraman came to know that Mambalappattu was a place, on
the way to Tiruvannamalai. Venkataraman went back to
Viluppuram station and bought a ticket to Mambalappattu for
which the money he had was just enough.

 

It was sometime in the afternoon
when Venkataraman arrived at Mambalappattu by train. From
there he set out on foot for Tiruvannamalai. About ten miles
he walked, and it was late in the evening. There was the
temple of Arayaninallur nearby, built on a large rock. He
went there waited for the doors to be opened, entered and
sat down in the pillared hall. He had a vision there – a
vision of brilliant light enveloping the entire place. It
was no physical light. It shone for some time and then
disappeared. Venkataraman continued sitting in a mood of
deep meditation, till he was roused by the temple priests
who were wanting to lock the doors and go to another temple
three quarters of a mile away at Kilur for service.
Venkataraman followed them, and while inside the temple he
got lost in samadhi again. After finishing their duties the
priests woke him up, but would not give him any food. The
temple drummer who had been watching the rude behaviour of
the priests implored them to hand over his share of the
temple food to the strange youth. When Venkataraman asked
for some drinking water, he was directed to a Sastri’s house
which was at some distance. While in that house he fainted
and fell down. A few minutes later he rallied round and saw
a small crowd looking at him curiously. He drank the water,
ate some food, and lay down and slept.

 

Next morning he woke up. It was the
31st of August, 1896, the Gokulastami day, the day of Sri
Krishna’s birth. Venkataraman resumed his journey and walked
for quite a while. He felt tired and hungry. So he wished
for some food first, and then he would go to Tiruvannamalai,
by train if that was possible. The thought occurred to him
that he could dispose of the pair of gold ear-rings he was
wearing and raise the money that was required. But how was
this to be accomplished? He went and stood outside a house
which happened to belong to one Muthukrishna Bhagavatar. He
asked the Bhagavatar for food and was directed to the
housewife. The good lady was pleased to receive the young
sadhu and feed him on the auspicious day of Sri Krisna’s
birth. After the meal, Venkataraman went to the Bhagavatar
again and told him that he wanted to pledge his ear-rings
for four rupees in order that he may complete his
pilgrimage. The rings were worth about twenty rupees, but
Venkataraman had no need for that much money. The Bhagavatar
examined the ear-rings, gave Venkataraman the money he had
asked for, took down the youth’s address, wrote out his own
on a piece of paper for him, and told him that he could
redeem the rings at any time. Venkataraman had his lunch at
the Bhagavatar’s house. The pious lady gave him a packet of
sweets that she had prepared for Gokulastami. Venkataraman
took leave, of the couple, tore up the address the
Bhagavatar had given him – for he had no intention of
redeeming the ear-rings – and went to the railway station.
As there was no train till the next morning, he spent the
night there. On the morning of the 1st of September, 1896,
he boarded the train to Tiruvannamalai. The travel took,
only a short time. Alighting from the train, he hastened to
the great temple of Arunacalesvara. All the gates stood open
– even the doors of the inner shrine. The temple was then
empty of all people – even the priests. Venkataraman entered
the sanctum sanctorum, and as he stood before his Father
Arunacalesvara he experienced great ecstasy and unspeakable
joy. The epic journey had ended. The ship had come safely to
port.

 

The rest of what we regard as
Ramana’s life – this is how we shall call him hereafter –
was spent in Tiruvannamalai. Ramana was not formally
initiated into sannyasa. As he came out of the temple and
was walking along the streets of the town, someone called
out and asked whether he wanted his tuft removed. He
consented readily, and was conducted to the Ayyankulam tank
where a barber shaved his head. Then he stood on the steps
of the tank and threw away into the water his remaining
money. He also discarded the packet of sweets given by the
Bhagavatar’s wife. The next to go was the sacred thread he
was wearing. As he was returning to the temple he was just
wondering why he should give his body the luxury of a bath,
when there was a downpour which drenched him.

 

The first place of Ramana’s
residence in Tiruvannamalai was the great temple. For a few
weeks he remained in the thousand-pillared hall. But he was
troubled by urchins who pelted stones at him as he sat in
meditation. He shifted himself to obscure corners and even
to an underground vault known as Patala-lingam. Undisturbed
he used to spend several days in deep absorption. Without
moving he sat in samadhi, not being aware of even the bites
of vermin and pests. But the mischievous boys soon
discovered the retreat and indulged in their pastime of
throwing potsherds at the young Svami. There was at the time
in Tiruvannamalai a senior Svami by name Seshadri. Those who
did not know him took him for a madman. He sometimes stood
guard over the young Svami, and drove away the urchins. At
long last he was removed from the pit by devotees without
his being aware of it and deposited in the vicinity of a
shrine of Subrahmanya. From then on there was some one or
other to take care of Ramana. The seat of residence had to
be changed frequently. Gardens, groves, shrines – these were
chosen to keep the Svami. The Svami himself never spoke. Not
that he took any vow of silence; he had no inclination to
talk. At times the texts like Vasistham and
Kaivalyanavanitam used to be read out to him.

 

A little less than six months after
his arrival at Tiruvannamalai Ramana shifted his residence
to a shrine called Gurumurtam at the earnest request of its
keeper, a Tambiransvami. As days passed and as Ramana’s fame
spread, increasing numbers of pilgrims and sight-seers came
to visit him. After about a year’s stay at Gurumurtam, the
Svami – locally he was known as Brahmana-svami – moved to a
neighbouring mango orchard. It was here that one of his
uncles, Nelliyappa Aiyar traced him out. Nelliyappa Aiyar
was a second-grade pleader at Manamadurai. Having learnt
from a friend that Venkataraman was then a revered Sadhu at
Tiruvannamalai, he went there to see him. He tried his best
to take Ramana along with him to Manamadurai. But the young
sage would not respond. He did not show any sign of interest
in the visitor. So, Nelliyappa Aiyar went back disappointed
to Manamadurai. However, he conveyed the news to Alagammal,
Ramana’s mother.

 

The mother went to Tiruvannamalai
accompanied by her eldest son. Ramana was then living at
Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern spurs of Arunachala. With
tears in her eyes Alagammal entreated Ramana to go back with
her. But, for the sage there was no going back. Nothing
moved him — not even the wailings and weepings of his
mother. He kept silent giving no reply. A devotee who had
been observing the struggle of the mother for several days
requested Ramana to write out at least what he had to say.
The sage wrote on a piece of paper quite in an impersonal
way thus : “In accordance with the prarabdha of each, the
One whose function it is to ordain makes each to act. What
will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may
put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen,
however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain.
The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet.”

 

Disappointed and with a heavy heart,
the mother went back to Manamadurai. Sometime after this
event Ramana went up the hill Arunachala, and started living
in a cave called Virupaksa after a saint who dwelt and was
buried there. Here also the crowds came, and among them were
a few earnest seekers. These latter used to put him
questions regarding spiritual experience or bring sacred
books for having some points explained. Ramana sometimes
wrote out his answers and explanations. One of the books
that was brought to him during this period was Sankara’s
Vivekacudamani which later on he rendered into Tamil prose.
There were also some simple unlettered folk that came to him
for solace and spiritual guidance. One of them was Echammal
who having lost her husband, son, and daughter, was
disconsolate till the Fates guided her to Ramana’s presence.
She made it a point to visit the Svami every day and took
upon herself the task of bringing food for him as well as
for those who lived with him.

 

In 1903 there came to Tiruvannamalai
a great Samskrit scholar and savant, Ganapati Sastri known
also as Ganapati Muni because of the austerities he had been
observing. He had the title Kavya-kantha (one who had poetry
at his throat), and his disciples addressed him as nayana
(father). He was a specialist in the worship of the Divine
Mother. He visited Ramana in the Virupaksa cave quite a few
times. Once in 1907 he was assailed by doubts regarding his
own spiritual practices. He went up the hill, saw Ramana
sitting alone in the cave, and expressed himself thus : “All
that has to be read I have read; even Vedanta sastra I have
fully understood; I have done japa to my heart’s content;
yet I have not up to this time understood what tapas is.
Therefore I have sought refuge at your feet. Pray enlighten
me as to the nature of tapas.” Ramana replied, now speaking,
“If one watches whence the notion ‘I’ arises, the mind gets
absorbed there; that is tapas. When a mantra is repeated, if
one watches whence that mantra sound arises, the mind gets
absorbed there; that is tapas.” To the scholar this came as
a revelation; he felt the grace of the sage enveloping him.
He it was that proclaimed Ramana to be Maharshi and
Bhagavan. He composed hymns in Samskrit in praise of the
sage, and also wrote the Ramana-Gita explaining his
teachings.

 

Ramana’s mother, Alagammal, after
her return to Manamadurai, lost her eldest son. Two years
later, her youngest son, Nagasundaram paid a brief visit to
Tiruvannamalai. She herself went there once on her return
from a pilgrimage to Varanasi, and again during a visit to
Tirupati. On this occasion she fell ill and suffered for
several weeks with symptoms of typhoid. Ramana showed great
solicitude in nursing her and restoring her to health. He
even composed a hymn in Tamil beseeching Lord Arunachala to
cure her of her disease. The first verse of the hymn runs as
follows : ‘Oh Medicine in the form of a Hill that arose to
cure the disease of all the births that come in succession
like waves! Oh Lord! It is Thy duty to save my mother who
regards Thy feet alone as her refuge, by curing her fever.’
He also prayed that his mother should be granted the vision
divine and be weaned from worldliness. It is needless to say
that both the prayers were answered. Alagammal recovered,
and went back to Manamadurai. But not long after she
returned to Tiruvannamalai; a little later followed her
youngest son, Nagasundaram who had in the meanwhile lost his
wife leaving a son. It was in the beginning of 1916 that the
mother came, resolved to spend the rest of her life with
Ramana. Soon after his mother’s arrival, Ramana moved from
Virupaksa to Skandasramam, a little higher up the hill. The
mother received training in intense spiritual life. She
donned the ochre robe, and took charge of the Asrama
kitchen. Nagasundaram too became a sannyasin, assuming the
name Niranjanananda. Among Ramana’s devotees he came to be
popularly known as Chinnaswami (the Younger Swami). In 1920
the mother grew weak in health and ailments incidental to
old age came to her. Ramana tended her with care and
affection, and spent even sleepless nights sitting up with
her. The end came on May 19, 1922, which was the
Bahulanavami day, in the month of Vaisakha. The mother’s
body was taken down the hill to be interred. The spot chosen
was at the southernmost point, between Palitirtham Tank and
the Daksinamurti Mantapam. While the ceremonies were being
performed, Ramana himself stood silently looking on.
Niranjanananda Swami took his residence near the tomb.
Ramana who continued to remain at Skandasramam visited the
tomb every day. After about six months he came to stay
there, as he said later on, not out of his own volition but
in obedience to the Divine Will. Thus was founded the
Ramanasramam. A temple was raised over the tomb and was
consecrated in 1949. As the years rolled by the Asramam grew
steadily, and people not only from India but from every
continent of the world came to see the sage and receive help
from him in their spiritual pursuits.

 

Ramana’s first Western devotee was
F. H. Humphrys. He came to India in 1911 to take up a post
in the Police service at Vellore. Given to the practice of
occultism, he was in search of a Mahatma. He was introduced
to Ganapati Sastri by his Telugu tutor; and Sastri took him
to Ramana. The Englishman was greatly impressed. Writing
about his first visit to the sage in the International
Psychic Gazette, he said : ‘On reaching the cave we sat
before him, at his feet, and said nothing. We sat thus for a
long time and I felt lifted out of myself. For half an hour
I looked into the Maharshi’s eyes, which never changed their
expression of deep contemplation…. The Maharshi is a man
beyond description in his expression of dignity, gentleness,
self-control and calm strength of conviction.’ Humphry’s
ideas of spirituality changed for the better as a result of
the contact with Ramana. He repeated his visits to the sage.
He recorded his impressions in his letters to a friend in
England which were published in the Gazette mentioned above.
In one of them he wrote, ‘You can imagine nothing more
beautiful than his smile.’ And again, ‘It is strange what a
change it makes in one to have been in his
Presence!’

 

It was not all good people that went
to the Asrama. Sometimes bad ones turned up also – even bad
sadhus. Twice in the year 1924 thieves broke into the Asrama
in quest of loot. On the second of these occasions they even
beat the Maharshi, finding that there was very little for
them to take. When one of the devotees sought the sage’s
permission to punish the thieves, the sage forbade him,
saying : “They have their dharma, we have ours. It is for us
to bear and forbear. Let us not interfere with them.” When
one of the thieves gave him a blow on the left thigh, he
told him : “If you are not satisfied you can strike the
other leg also.” After the thieves had left, a devotee
enquired about the beating. The sage remarked, “I also have
received some puja,” punning on the word which means
‘worship’ but is also used to mean ‘blows’.

 

The spirit of harmlessness that
permeated the sage and his environs made even animals and
birds make friends with him. He showed them the same
consideration that he did to the humans that went to him.
When he referred to any of them, he used the form ‘he’ or
‘she’ and not ‘it’. Birds and squirrels built their nests
around him. Cows, dogs and monkeys found asylum in the
Asrama. All of them behaved intelligently – especially the
cow Laksmi. He knew their ways quite intimately. He would
see to it that they were fed properly and well. And, when
any of them died, the body would be buried with due
ceremony. The life in the Asrama flowed on smoothly. With
the passage of time more and more of visitors came – some of
them for a short stay and others for longer periods. The
dimensions of the Asrama increased, and new features and
departments were added – a home for the cattle, a school for
the study of the Vedas, a department for publication, and
the Mother’s temple with regular worship, etc. Ramana sat
most of the time in the hall that had been constructed for
the purpose as the witness to all that happened around him.
It was not that he was not active. He used to stitch
leaf-plates, dress vegetables, read proofs received from the
press, look into newspapers and books, suggest lines of
reply to letters received, etc. yet it was quite evident
that he was apart from everything. There were numerous
invitations for him to undertake tours. But he never moved
out of Tiruvannamalai, and in the later years out of the
Asrama. Most of the time, every day, people sat before him.
They sat mostly in silence. Sometimes some of them asked
questions; and sometimes he answered them. It was a great
experience to sit before him and to look at his beaming
eyes. Many did experience time coming to a stop and a
stillness and peace beyond description.

 

The golden jubilee of Ramana’s
coming to stay at Tiruvannamalai was celebrated in 1946. In
1947 his health began to fail. He was not yet seventy, but
looked much older. Towards the end of 1948 a small nodule
appeared below the elbow of his left arm. As it grew in
size, the doctor in charge of the Asrama dispensary cut it
out. But in a month’s time it reappeared. Surgeons from
Madras were called, and they operated. The wound did not
heal, and the tumour came again. On further examination it
was diagnosed that the affection was a case of sarcoma. The
doctors suggested amputating the arm above the affected
part. Ramana replied with a smile : “There is no need for
alarm. The body is itself a disease. Let it have its natural
end. Why mutilate it? Simple dressing of the affected part
will do.” Two more operations had to be performed, but the
tumour appeared again. Indigenous systems of medicine were
tried; and homeopathy too. The disease did not yield itself
to treatment. The sage was quite unconcerned, and was
supremely indifferent to suffering. He sat as a spectator
watching the disease waste the body. But his eyes shone as
bright as ever; and his grace flowed towards all beings.
Crowds came in large numbers. Ramana insisted that they
should be allowed to have his darsana. Devotees profoundly
wished that the sage should cure his body through an
exercise of supernormal powers. Some of them imagined that
they themselves had had the benefit of these powers which
they attributed to Ramana. Ramana had compassion for those
who grieved over the suffering, and he sought to comfort
them by reminding them of the truth that Bhagavan was not
the body : “They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute
suffering to him. What a pity! They are despondent the
Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away – where can he
go, and how?”

 

The end came on the 14th of April,
1950. That evening the sage gave darsana to the devotees
that came. All that were present in the Asrama knew that the
end was nearing. They sat singing Ramana’s hymn to
Arunachala with the refrain Arunachala-Siva. The sage asked
his attendants to make him sit up. He opened his luminous
and gracious eyes for a brief while; there was a smile; a
tear of bliss trickled down from the outer corner of his
eyes; and at 8-47 the breathing stopped. There was no
struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very
moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the
summit, of the holy hill, Arunachala, and disappeared behind
it.

 

Ramana Maharshi seldom wrote; and
what little he did write in prose or verse was written to
meet the specific demands of his devotees. He himself
declared once : “Somehow, it never occurs to me to write a
book or compose poems. All the poems I have made were on the
request of someone or other in connection with some
particular event.” The most important of his works is The
Forty Verses on Existence. In the Upadesa Saram which is
also a poem the quintessence of Vedanta is set forth. The
sage composed five hymns to Arunachala. Some of the works of
Sankara like Vivekacudamani and Atma-bodha were rendered
into Tamil by him. Most of what he wrote is in Tamil. But he
wrote also in Sanskrit, Telugu, and Malayalam.

 

The philosophy of Sri Ramana – which
is the same as that of Advaita-Vedanta has for its aim
Self-realization. The central path taught in this philosophy
is the inquiry into the nature of Self, the content of the
notion ‘I’. Ordinarily the sphere of the ‘I’ varies and
covers a multiplicity of factors. But these factors are not
really the ‘I’. For instance, we speak of the physical body
as ‘I’; we say, ‘I am fat’, ‘I am lean’ etc. It will not
take long to discover that this is a wrong usage. The body
itself cannot say, ‘I’ for it is inert. Even the most
ignorant man understands the implication of the expression
‘my body’. It is not easy, however, to resolve the mistaken
identity of the ‘I’ with egoity (ahankara). That is because
the inquiring mind is the ego, and in order to remove the
wrong identification it has to pass a sentence of death, as
it were, on itself. This is by no means a simple thing. The
offering of the ego in the fire of wisdom is the greatest
form of sacrifice.

 

The discrimination of the Self from
the ego, we said, is not easy. But it is not impossible. All
of us can have this discrimination if we ponder over the
implication of our sleep-experience. In sleep ‘we are’,
though the ego has made its exit. The ego does not function
there. Still there is the ‘I’ that witnesses the absence of
the ego as well as of the objects. If the ‘I’ were not
there, one would not recall on waking from one’s
sleep-experience, and say; “I slept happily. I did not know
anything”. We have, then, two ‘I’s’ – the ‘pseudo-I’ which
is the ego and the true ‘I’ which is the Self. The
identification of the ‘I’ with the ego is so strong that we
seldom see the ego without its mask. Moreover, all our
relative experience turns on the pivot of the ego. With the
rise of the ego on waking from sleep, the entire world rises
with it. The ego, therefore, looks so important and
unassailable.

 

But this is really a fortress made
of cards. Once the process of inquiry starts, it will be
found to crumble and dissolve. For undertaking this inquiry,
one must possess a sharp mind – much sharper than the one
required for unravelling the mysteries of matter. It is with
the one-pointed intellect that the truth is to be seen
(drsyate tu agraya buddhya). It is true that even the
intellect will have to get resolved before the final wisdom
dawns. But up to that point it has to inquire – and inquire
relentlessly. Wisdom, surely, is not for the
indolent!

 

The inquiry ‘Who am I?’ is not to be
regarded as a mental effort to understand the mind’s nature.
Its main purpose is ‘to focus the entire mind at its
source’. The source of the ‘pseudo-I’ is the Self. What one
does in Self-inquiry is to run against the mental current
instead of running along with it, and finally transcend the
sphere of mental modifications. When the ‘pseudo-I’ is
tracked down to its source, it vanishes. Then the Self
shines in all its splendour – which shining is called
realization and release.

 

The cessation or non-cessation of
the body has nothing to do with release. The body may
continue to exist and the world may continue to appear, as
in the case of the Maharshi. That makes no difference at all
to the Self that has been realized. In truth, there is
neither the body nor the world for him; there is only the
Self, the eternal Existence (sat), the Intelligence (cit),
the unsurpassable bliss (ananda). Such an experience is not
entirely foreign to us. We have it in sleep, where we are
conscious neither of the external world of things nor of the
inner world of dreams. But that experience lies under the
cover of ignorance. So it is that we come back to the
phantasies of dream and of the world of waking. Non-return
to duality is possible only when nescience has been removed.
To make this possible is the aim of Vedanta. To inspire even
the lowliest of us with hope and help us out of the Slough
of Despond, is the supreme significance of such illustrious
exemplars as the Maharshi.

 

 

 

——————————————————————————–

 

 

SRI RAMANASRAMAM,
TIRUVANNAMALAI.

IDEALS AND ACTIVITIES

Sri Ramanasramam, where Bhagavan Sri
Ramana Maharshi lived and taught his Eternal Message of
Advaita Vedanta, is situated in a picturesque spot on the
western end of the sacred town of Arunachala –
Tiruvannamalai – and the air of calm, peace and beauty that
prevails in the noble buildings that constitute the Asramam,
where several activities are carried on, has to be
experienced to be believed.

 

The entire Asramam is an ideal spot
for calm and quiet meditation. People of all nationalities
look upon it as their own home.

 

Devotees of Bhagavan Sri Ramana
Maharshi who have not been in touch with the Asramam since
His Mahanirvana, have been making constant enquiries about
the work of His Asramam ever since. In response to such
enquiries, we bring to their notice that Sri Ramanasramam is
functioning as in the days prior to Sri Ramana Maharshi’s
Mahanirvana. The normal activities of the Asramam are as
follows:

 

1. Sri Ramanasramam is saturated
with the Benign Grace of Bhagavan Sri Ramana; and the
greatest benefit that it has been conferring on his devotees
of all religions is Mental Peace, Bliss and
Happiness.

 

The chief aim of the Asramam is to
give every possible aid to devotees who seek the said
benefits. Many devotees gather in the morning and evening
for silent meditation and prayer and they get all the help
and convenience they need.

 

2. Puja is performed at the
Mahasamadhi of Sri Bhagavan both in the morning and in the
evening and also to that of Sri Bhagavan’s mother, Sri
Mathrubhuteswarar.

 

3 Veda Parayana (Chanting of Vedas)
is done regularly every day both in the morning and evening.
Devotees gather both times at the Shrines at the time of
Arathi (Waving of Lights).

 

4. The old Hall in which Sri
Bhagavan used to sit, is a very inspiring place and devotees
gather there for meditation.

 

5. The room in which occurred the
Brahma Nirvana of Bhagavan is a very sacred place for one
and all of His devotees.

 

6 Study groups meet in the new Hall
and discuss Sri Bhagavan’s teachings.

 

7. To give wider publicity to the
teaching of Sri Bhagavan the Asramam is publishing a
quarterly The Mountain Path. which goes to distant parts of
the world.

 

Subscription Rates : Annual : In
India Rs. 30/-, Foreign U.S. $15 by surface mail. Air Mail
Surcharge, differs from country to country. Life
Subscription : Rs. 500/- in India and U.S. $250
abroad.

 

8. The devotees of Sri Bhagavan
visit the Asramam from far and near and they are
accommodated at the Asramam and every effort is made to make
their stay comfortable, so that they may enjoy the peace of
Sri Bhagavan’s Being that pervades the Asramam.

 

9. The Veda Patasala is a limb of
the Asramam and the boys who study there have free
education, boarding and lodging. They are taught the Yajur
Veda, Sanskrit literature and English, Tamil, Mathematics
and General Knowledge.

 

10. The SRI CHAKRA (Meru Prasthara)
which Sri Bhagavan consecrated by His Touch is located
within the precincts of the Mother’s Shrine and is offered
special puja on all Fridays, the full-moon day and the Masa
Pravesa Day (The 1st day of Tamil Month). The devotees of
Sri Bhagavan are very keen in participating in these pujas
and obtaining the benefit of the worship.

 

11. The Gosala is maintained as of
old in an ideal condition. Milk supply for the needs of the
Asramites and the visiting devotees is made adequate and
self-supporting.

 

12. The Asramam kitchen functions as
of old, catering to about 75 inmates and visiting devotees
and a number of poor people.

 

13. The Free Dispensary runs as of
old and the doctor gives his unstinted honorary services
three days in a week.

14. The Asramam is also active in
bringing out new publications and reprinting the old, in all
languages. The spoken words of Sri Bhagavan, which were
recorded then and there, are being published. Price lists on
application.

 

15. The Asramam has an excellent
Library of 10,000 to 15,000 books in various languages on
philosophical, religious and other subjects for the free use
of the devotees.

 

16. Every effort is being made to
make the Asramam a centre wherefrom the message of Sri
Bhagavan will radiate.

17. The Asramam maintains a
permanent roll of Life Members, and devotees of Bhagavan Sri
Ramana Maharshi enlist themselves, by paying Rs.100/-
(Foreign £12.50 or U.S.$30.00). They are kept in touch
with the Asramam by communication from here at least prior
to and after the JAYANTHI and the ARADHANA of Sri Bhagavan.
—- No longer applicable from 1993.

 

18. The Asramam is run purely out of
the voluntary contributions of the devotees.

May His benign Grace be ever upon
one and all.

 

 

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