Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi

The only useful purpose of the present birth is to turn within and realize the Self.” A man who was loved globally, whose teachings encompassed self-inquiry and removal of ignorance in the Sadhak. This is his story of enlightenment, Shri Ramana Maharshi, according to whom Self-Inquiry was the fastest path to liberation.
Ramana Maharshi in Sri Ramanashram; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Ramana Maharshi in Sri Ramanashram; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

He disclosed the straightforward way of Self-inquiry practice and awoke humanity to the great spiritual energy of the sacred Arunachala Hill, the world's spiritual center. His "death-experience" left him in a state he called "Iswara” or the “Jnani's state of consciousness." He asks, "Inquiring within ‘Who is the seer?’ I saw the seer disappear leaving That alone which stands forever. No thought arose to say I saw. How then could the thought arise to say I did not see."

From Arunachaleswara temple, where he spent most of his time in samadhi, disregarding all bodily disturbances, wearing only a loincloth, he travelled a kilometre to Gurumurutam temple. He encountered Palaniswami, a sadhu with whom he felt enormous bliss and calm, and chose to do seva as his attendant.

However, it was here that his family learned of his whereabouts. His uncle arrived to beg him to come back home, assuring that the family would not interfere with his austere life. Ramana Maharshi sat still, and his uncle, ultimately, gave up. Notwithstanding his mother's urges too, he still refused to return.

He eventually settled in Virupaksha Cave for the following 17 years, spending the summers under the Mango Tree Cave. Ramana Maharshi's initial teachings on Self-inquiry were from fourteen questions posed by a government official to him about the self, and were subsequently published as "Nan Yar?" or “Who am I?” As word spread of this young Swami, Ganapati Muni, another famous sadhu, paid him a visit and, after receiving the Upadesa on self-inquiry, pronounced him Bhagavan.

“Self-inquiry is the one infallible means, the only direct one, to realize the unconditioned, absolute being that you really are.” — Ramana Maharshi

His mother Alagammal and younger brother Nagasundaram joined Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai in 1916 and accompanied him to the bigger Skandashram Cave. His mother became a sannyasin, and Ramana Maharshi started to offer her intensive, personal Updesas as she oversaw the Ashram kitchen. She died in 1922 with Ramana Maharshi sitting beside her. He resided in the Sri Ramanashram, which sprang up around her grave, until his death in 1950, and with his devotees, the ashram began to grow substantially.

A malignant cancerous lump on his arm started to grow and weaken him, and repeated efforts to treat him had failed. Devotees implored him to heal himself for the sake of his disciples, but Ramana Maharshi refused, saying, "Why are you so attached to this body? Let it go."

On 14 April 1950, at 8:47 PM, he died as a shooting star rocketed across the silent blue evening sky.

"Where can I go? I am here."

Born as Venkataraman Iyer, he came to be known as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. He was an Indian sage and Jivanmukta (liberated being). An Awakening, known as the “Sudden Liberation” by him at the age of 16, is what brought him to the realization of his inner nature which he referred to as "Avesam" or "Force”. Tiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, India, was the place of his birth. An excellent memory and capacity to recall what he had heard only once were two of his main gifts, which he utilized to study and fall in love with Arunachala Hill while memorizing Tamil poetry.

His paternal uncle and grandfather had both become sannyasins. In order to fulfil his father's desire for his boys to be educated in the English language and become government employees, he was sent to live with his uncle in Dindigul when he was eleven years old. Venkataraman was disinterested in religion or spirituality at the moment, till his revelation eight months later.

He first encountered spontaneous profound meditation states when he was, approximately, twelve years old. As a child, he was drawn to the holy hill of Arunachala and the 63 Nayanmars. Venkataraman realized that Arunachala, the holy mountain, was a real location and was overcome with joy after learning this.

Then, at the age of 16, he had a sudden dread of death; he was hit by a flash of anxiety or "heat," as if some current had taken possession of him, and his body grew stiff. He was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of his uncle’s house, with no health problems to assign as the cause. He felt at that moment he had to solve the problem for himself. He pierced into that experience by asking himself, "Now death has come; what does it mean? What is it that dies?" and came to the understanding that the body dies, but this Avesam (force) lives on, and recognized this as his true Self, which he, eventually, referred to as Shiva.

“Well then,” he said to himself, “this body is dead. It will be carried stiff 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? It 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 a Spirit, transcending the body. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means that I am a deathless Spirit.”, he realized after laying in complete stillness to emulate death. It flashed before him so vividly that it was undeniable, unforgettable. Fear of death had vanquished. He lost the attachment to the self, whereas before he was completely involved and unaware of the movements of the self.

This experience did not come without its consequences and his life took a turn.

“What use is all this to such a one?” his brother said, or in other words he meant that one who wished to live like a sadhu had no right to enjoy the amenities of home life. Recognizing the truth in his brother’s remark, Venkataraman slipped away, telling his brother he needed to attend a special class at school, knowing his family would not allow him to leave home and become a sannyasin.

Venkataraman boarded the train to Tiruvannamalai on September 1, 1896, where he became a sannyasin and stayed for the remainder of his life. He liked to sit alone, immersed in deep meditation on the true Self, and went to the Meenakshi Temple on a regular basis, ecstatically dedicated to the pictures of the 63 Nayanmars and Nataraja, as waves of emotion took over him, he prayed and poured his heart out to God to bestow the blessings He bestowed on those saints.

63 Nayanmars; Image Source: telibrary.com

63 Nayanmars; Image Source: telibrary.com

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