The Most Significant Event After Ramana’s Enlightenment
Virupaksha Years, 1899-1916
The formless and imperishable Real stands revealed in the Aruna Hill, the embodied Presence of the three-eyed God. Since the Cave named Virupaksha sustains the very devotees who dwell within the Heart-cave of that God, well may we call it Mother.
Ramana Maharshi stayed in the Virupaksha Cave for seventeen years from 1899 to 1916. Ramana was just a young lad of twenty years when he shifted from Gurumurtam to the Virupaksha Cave. Ramana’s feelings towards this cave are expressed in the stray verse extracted above. He considers it appropriate to call it “Mother” because it sustains the very devotees who give themselves wholly to the Aruna Hill, the embodied form of
This cave is situated on the eastern slopes of the Aruna Hill. It is a unique cave, which has the shape of the mystic syllable “Om.” It is named after Virupaksha Deva, a saint who lived and has been buried there in the 13th century. Many momentous events in Ramana’s life took place during the years of his stay here. It was here that his mother Azhagammal came to live with him permanently in the last years of her life. She surrendered herself totally to him and was guided by him on the inward path. Her liberation at the sacred hands of Ramana is an epoch-making event.
Another event of immense significance is Ramana’s “first spoken upadesa” to a disciple, which was given to Ganapati Muni in 1907.3 Till then Ramana had remained silent outwardly as well.
It was again at Virupaksha that Ramana communicated the experience of his enlightenment through his spiritual instructions to Gambhiram Seshier and Sivaprakasam Pillai.
The Most Significant Event After Enlightenment
The first biographer, B.V. Narasimha Swami, had interviewed Ramana about an incident which happened in 1912 while he was staying at the Virupaksha Cave.
This interview is given as an appendix to Narasimha Swami’s biography under the heading, “A strange and remarkable incident in the life of Sri Maharshi.”
Th e signifi cance of this event is therefore likely to be lost sight of.
In 1912, Ramana, Palaniswami, and Vasudeva Sastri, and a few others went from Virupaksha Cave to Pachiamman Koil for taking an oil bath as facilities for such a bath were available in plenty in that place. After bathing they returned cutting a path across the hill for themselves.
The sun was fairly hot even at about 10 a.m. when they reached the tortoise rock. Ramana began to feel faint and what happened is best stated in his own words.
“Suddenly the view of natural scenery in front of me disappeared and
a bright white curtain was drawn across the line of my vision and shut out the view of nature. I could distinctly see the gradual process. At one stage I could see a part of the prospect of nature yet clear, and the rest was being covered by the advancing curtain. It was just like drawing a slide across one’s view in the stereoscope. On experiencing this I stopped walking lest I should fall. When it cleared, I walked on. When darkness and faintness overtook me a second time, I leaned against a rock until it cleared. And again for the third time I felt it safest to sit, so I sat near the rock. Then the bright white curtain had completely shut out my vision, my head was swimming, and my blood circulation and breathing stopped. The skin turned a livid blue. It was the regular death-like hue and it got darker and darker. Vasudeva Sastri took me in fact to be dead, held me in his embrace and began to weep aloud and lament my death. His body was shivering. I could at that time distinctly feel his clasp and his shivering, hear his lamentation, and understand the meaning. I also saw the discoloration of my skin and I felt the stoppage of my heartbeat and respiration, and the increased chilliness of the extremities of my body. Yet my usual current was continuing without a break in that state also. I was not afraid in the least, nor felt any sadness at the condition of my body. I had closed my eyes as soon I sat near the rock in my usual posture but was not leaning against it. The body which had no circulation nor respiration maintained that position still. This state continued for some ten or fifteen minutes. Then a shock passed suddenly through the body, circulation revived with enormous force, as also respiration; and there was perspiration all over the body at every pore. The color of life reappeared on the skin. I then opened my eyes, got up and said, ‘Let us go.’ We reached Virupaksha Cave without further trouble. That was the only occasion on which both my blood circulation and respiration stopped.”
At the time of enlightenment, which happened on July 17, 1896, Ramana had only the sudden fear of death. However, in order to go through the experience
of what death means, “he stretched himself like a corpse as though rigor mortis had set in and held his lips tightly together and his breath.” It was not a physical death but an experience of death intensely felt as part of investigation to find out and discover “Who am I? Still I felt within myself the ‘I’ was there, the sound was there, the feeling itself ‘I’ was there. What was that? I felt that it was a force or current, a center of energy playing on the body working on despite the rigidity or activity of the body though existing in connection with it.”
This experience that the true “I” was a current or a force or center that constituted the real “I” stayed with him for the rest of life. The second experience is different in that there was a physical death for 10 or 15 minutes. The heartbeat and the blood circulation had stopped and the body had become cold and blue. But the experience of awareness of the heart current as the “I” remained. This is the most significant aspect of this experience. Even while narrating the experience Ramana has clearly stated, “Yet my usual current was continuing as usual without a break in that state also.”
Ramana himself has referred to this incident in the course of his conversation with B.V. Narasimha Swami, years later, in 1937. The relevant portion reads as follows: “I used to feel the vibrations of the Heart, which resemble those of a dynamo, even in school. When I developed rigor mortis many years ago in Tiruvannamalai, every object and sensation disappeared, except these vibrations. It was as if a dark screen was drawn before my eyes and shut the world completely from me, but of course I was all along conscious of the Self, with a vague feeling that someone was crying near me. This state continued till just before I regained physical consciousness, when I felt something rush from the Heart to the left chest and re-establish life in the body.”
One shudders at the thought as to what would have happened if the life force had not re-established itself in Ramana’s body.
But then it had to happen only in that way in the divine scheme of things. One who is aware of the life of Ramana will also be aware that the earmarked role for Ramana in the divine scheme was to guide seekers of truth, as the inner and outer guru, on the direct path of self-enquiry for Self-knowledge. This role as the sadguru was to be for about another five decades in the body from the date of this experience. Ramana’s steady Self-awareness and accessibility ensured this.
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