Sri Ramana Maharshi’s life in brief
Sri Ramana Maharshi was born on 30th December, 1879. He was known as Venkataraman. Born in a pious middle class Brahmin family, he went to a mission school and learnt a little English.
Flight From Home
On the 29th of August 1896, Venkataraman left his home in the district of Madurai in search of his Father, Lord Arunachala, to whom he reported himself on the 1st of September 1896, thus:O Lord, obedient to Thy call
Here have I come, deserting all,
No boon I ask; no loss bemoan,
Take me in and make me Thine own.From that day till the end of his earthly sojourn, Venkataraman made Arunachala (Tiruvannamalai) his abode, transmitting through Mouna, the golden language of his egoless state, the Message of Eternal Truth, to the four corners of the globe.Venkataraman left a note behind to his rebuking brother: “I have, in search of my Father, according to His command, started from this place. On a virtuous enterprise, indeed, I have this day embarked. Therefore, for this action none need grieve or trace this one. No money need be spent for searching me”.
The Great Enlightenment
“It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good, in the middle of the year 1896, that the great change in my life took place” said Sri Ramana Maharshi, when asked by devotees as to how he was transformed, “It was so sudden. One day I sat up alone on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I was in my usual good health. But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death seized me. I felt I was going to die and at once set about thinking as to what I should do. I did not care to consult anyone, be he a doctor, elder or friend. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there. The shock of the fear of death made me at once introspective or ‘introverted’. I said to myself mentally, ‘Now that death is come, what does it mean? Who is it that is dying? This body dies’. I at once dramatised the situation. I extended my limbs and held them rigid as though rigor mortis had set in. I imitated a corpse to lend an air of reality to my further investigation. I held my breath and kept my mouth closed, pressing the lips tightly together, so that no sound could escape. ‘Well then’ I said to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried to the crematory and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of my body, am I dead? Is the body I? This body is silent and inert. But I am still aware of the full force of my personality and even of the sound of I within myself as apart from the body. The material body dies, but the Spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. I am therefore the deathless Spirit’. All this was not a feat of intellectual gymnastics, but came as a flash before me vividly as living Truth, which I perceived immediately, without any argument almost. I was something very real, the only real thing in that state, and all the conscious activity that was connected with my body was centred on that. The I or myself was holding the focus of attention with a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished at once and for ever. The absorption in the Self has continued from that moment right up to now”.
Tapas of Maharshi
Ramana practised Tapas in the thousand-pillared Mandapam, near the Patala Linga, in Subrahmanya’s shrine, in the Mango garden, the Sadguru Swami cave and Cora hills. From 1909 to 1916 he lived in the Virupakshi Cave.During his days of Tapas, mischievous boys pelted him with stones and hurled tiles at him; and yet Ramana was ever peaceful and calm through the strength of meditation and penance.Ramana Maharshi was known as Brahmana Swami in Tiruvannamalai. Kavya Kanta Ganapathy Sastri, the great Sanskrit scholar, came to Ramana’s Ashram in 1908 and stayed with Maharshi and wrote the Ramana Gita.The life of the Maharshi was one continued meditation, Ananda Anubhavam. Maharshi established peace within. He lived in the Light of the Lord within. He encouraged others to do the same thing. To him all the world was one.Maharshi seldom talked, and whenever he did speak, he did so only because it was absolutely necessary.
His Divine Message
Ramana was a living example of the teaching of the Upanishads. His life was at once the message and the philosophy of his teachings. He spoke to the hearts of men.The great Maharshi found Himself within himself and then gave out to the world the grand but simple message of his great life, “Know Thyself”.“Know Thyself. All else will be known to thee of its own accord. Discriminate between the undying, unchanging, all-pervading, infinite Atma and the ever-changing, phenomenal and perishable universe and body. Enquire, ‘Who am I?’ Make the mind calm. Free yourself from all thoughts other than the simple thought of the Self or Atma. Dive deep into the chambers of your heart. Find out the real, infinite ‘I’. Rest there peacefully for ever and become identical with the Supreme Self.” This is the gist of the philosophy and teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi.Sri Ramana says, “The world is so unhappy because it is ignorant of the true Self. Man’s real nature is happiness. Happiness is inborn in the true Self. Man’s search for happiness is an unconscious search for his true Self. The true Self is imperishable; therefore, when a man finds it, he finds a happiness which does not come to an end.“In the interior cavity of the heart, the One Supreme Being is ever glowing with the Self-conscious emanation I…I… To realise Him, enter into the heart with an one-pointed mind—by quest within or diving deep or control of breath—and abide with the Self of self”.Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi has set at naught the prattle of materialists that Self-realisation and Samadhi are things of the remote past, and that in the present age, they are impossible of achievement to man. He has shown by his lifelong Samadhi that it is still possible to realise the Supreme and live in that realisation.Beloved aspirant! Take heart. Gird up your loins. Apply yourself intensely to Yoga Sadhana. You will soon attain Videha Kaivalya and shine for ever as an illumined sage.
The Light Shines Brighter Than Ever
Lieut-Col. P.V. Karamchandani, I.M.S., D.M.O., North Arcot District, attended on Sri Ramana when the latter suffered from a kind of malignant tumour in his upper left arm above the elbow. The Maharshi was operated four times.A meteor hit the sky at 8-47 p.m. on the 14th April, 1950, when Sri Ramana Maharshi left his mortal coil and entered Mahasamadhi.The all-pervading Light which shone through the embodiment of that Light in Maharshi Ramana had once again resolved itself into its original state. A lifelong proof of the Upanishads was what we called Maharshi Ramana. That proof will for ever exist, reassuring us of the Ultimate Reality.The saint is no more in his mortal frame. But the Light of his soul is now merged in every receptive individual soul. Maharshi Ramana lives in our heart. His passing away should not be grieved for. For he had fulfilled the mission of his life. He had achieved the highest goal, Self-realisation. So there is nothing to grieve for. The death of only those that are not able to achieve the goal of life or do their duty has any reason to be mourned. The Light of the Maharshi’s soul shines today brighter than ever.In the heart of humanity the saint shall live for ever, guiding, encouraging, goading and inspiring, so that millions and millions might seek and find the Great Truth that Ramana realised.Too well did Sri Ramana expound the Vedanta philosophy, not through bookish knowledge, but by practical experience. His teachings imparted through all-absorbing ‘Silence’ embodied the highest ideals and the ultimate reaches in divine realisation. To ever assert one’s latent divinity, to ever strive to live in the consciousness of the immortal Self and to remain as an unaffected witness of the transitory phases of life immersed in that Supreme Silence—was the clarion call of the Maharshi. Dogmas and religious prejudices he cared not for! For he was far above those mundane limitations. With him lived orthodox Brahmin priests, Moslems and Christians and the so-called Indian untouchables. They were all alike to him.As an architect-supreme of Truth-transcendental, Ramana Maharshi led, and now leads on, the weary travellers on earth towards the Goal through his unfathomable Silence.To pay the most befitting homage to that saintly personality is to follow his teachings and to grow up in that ideal model.May peace be unto all!
Ramana Maharshi’s teachings
Ramana was a silent Teacher, if there was one. It would be more appropriate to call him the Silent One, for teaching denotes duality, the teacher and taught, while Ramana was, as a devotee wrote, “the Pure Non-dual Essence.” His most direct and profound teaching was transmitted in silence.
However, how many were there that could immediately hear or experience the unspoken, the unwritten word? Devotees and visitors asked questions and out of his boundless compassion Bhagavan answered them in his own inimitable way, as the following excerpts will show.
All beings desire happiness always, happiness without a tinge of sorrow. At the same time everybody loves himself best. The cause for this love is only happiness. So, that happiness must lie in one self. Further, that happiness is daily experienced by everyone in sleep, when there is no mind. To attain that natural happiness one must know oneself. For that, Self-Enquiry ‘Who am I?’ is the chief means.
Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.
Mind is a wonderful force inherent in the Self. That which arises in this body as ‘I’ is the mind. When the subtle mind emerges through the brain and the senses, the gross names and forms are cognized. When it remains in the Heart, names and forms disappear. If the mind remains in the Heart, the ‘I’ or the ego which is the source of all thoughts will go, and the Self, the Real, Eternal ‘I’ alone will shine. Where there is not the slightest trace of the ego, there is the Self.
Who Am I ? Enquiry
For all thoughts the source is the ‘I’ thought. The mind will merge only by Self-enquiry ‘Who am I?’ The thought ‘Who am l?’ will destroy all other thoughts and finally kill itself also. If other thoughts arise, without trying to complete them, one must enquire to whom did this thought arise. What does it matter how many thoughts arise? As each thought arises one must be watchful and ask to whom is this thought occurring. The answer will be ‘to me’. If you enquire ‘Who am I?’ the mind will return to its source (or where it issued from). The thought which arose will also submerge. As you practise like this more and more, the power of the mind to remain as its source is increased.
There are two ways of achieving surrender. One is looking into the source of the ‘I’ and merging into that source. The other is feeling ‘I am helpless myself, God alone is all powerful, and except by throwing myself completely on Him, there is no other means of safety for me’, and thus gradually developing the conviction that God alone exists and the ego does not count. Both methods lead to the same goal. Complete surrender is another name for jnana or liberation.
The Three States :
Waking, Dream and Deep Sleep
There is no difference between the dream and the waking states except that the dream is short and the waking long. Both are the result of the mind. Our real state, called turiya (fourth), is beyond the waking, dream and sleep states.
Grace and Guru
I have not said that a Guru is not necessary. But a Guru need not always be in human form. First a person thinks that he is an inferior and that there is a superior, all-knowing, all powerful God who controls his own and the world’s destiny and worships him or does Bhakti. When he reaches a certain stage and becomes fit for enlightenment, the same God whom he was worshipping comes as Guru and leads him on. That Guru comes only to tell him that ‘God is within yourself. Dive within and realize.’ God, Guru and the Self are the same.
Self – Realization
The state we call realization is simply being oneself, not knowing anything or becoming anything. If one has realized, he is that which alone is, and which alone has always been. He cannot describe that state. He can only be That. Of course, we loosely talk of Self-realization for want of a better term.
That which is, is peace. All that we need do is to keep quiet. Peace is our real nature. We spoil it. What is required is that we cease to spoil it.
In the center of the cavity of the Heart, the sole Brahman shines by itself as the Atman (Self) in the feeling of ‘I-I’. Reach the Heart by diving within yourself, either with control of breath, or with thought concentrated on the quest of Self. You will thus get fixed in the Self.
Asked “How does a grihastha (householder) fare in the scheme of Moksha (liberation)?” Bhagavan said, “Why do you think you are a grihastha? If you go out as a sannyasi (ascetic), a similar thought that you are a sannyasi will haunt you. Whether you continue in the household or renounce it and go to the forest, your mind goes with you. The ego is the source of all thought. It creates the body and the world and makes you think you are a grihastha . If you renounce the world it will only substitute the thought sannyasi for grihastha and the environment of the forest for that of the household. But the mental obstacles will still be there. They even increase in the new surroundings. There is no help in change of environment. The obstacle is the mind. It must be got over whether at home or in the forest. If you can do it in the forest, why not at home? Therefore, why change your environment? Your efforts can be made even now – in whatever environment you are now. The environment will never change according to your desire.”
Fate and Free Will
Free will and destiny are ever existent. Destiny is the result of past action; it concerns the body. Let the body act as may suit it. Why are you concerned about it? Why do you pay attention to it? Free will and destiny last as long as the body lasts. But jnana transcends both. The Self is beyond knowledge and ignorance. Whatever happens, happens as the result of one’s past actions, of divine will and of other factors.
There are only two ways to conquer destiny or be independent of it. One is to enquire for whom is this destiny and discover that only the ego is bound by destiny and not the Self and that the ego is non-existent.
The other way is to kill the ego by completely surrendering to the Lord, by realizing one’s helplessness and saying all the time, ‘Not I, but Thou, oh Lord’ and giving up all sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’, and leaving it to the Lord to do what he likes with you. Complete effacement of the ego is necessary to conquer destiny, whether you achieve this effacement through Self-enquiry or bhakti marga (path).
The Jnani (Knower)
The jnani has attained Liberation even while alive, here and now. It is immaterial to him as to how, where and when he leaves the body. Some jnanis may appear to suffer, others may be in samadhi; still others may disappear from sight before death. But that makes no difference to their jnana. Such suffering is apparent, seems real to the onlooker, but is not felt by the jnani, for he has already transcended the mistaken identity of the Self with the body. The jnani does not think he is the body. He does not even see the body. He sees only the Self in the body. If the body is not there, but only the Self, the question of its disappearing in any form does not arise.
- Knowledge itself is ‘I’. The nature of (this) knowledge is existence-consciousness-bliss.
- As all living beings desire to be happy always, without misery, as in the case of everyone there is observed supreme love for one’s self, and as happiness alone is the cause for love, in order to gain that happiness which is one’s nature and which is experienced in the state of deep sleep where there is no mind, one should know one’s self. For that, the path of knowledge, the inquiry of the form “Who am I?”, is the principal means.
- What is called mind is a wondrous power existing in Self. It projects all thoughts. If we set aside all thoughts and see, there will be no such thing as mind remaining separate; therefore, thought itself is the form of the mind. Other than thoughts, there is no such thing as the world.
- Of all the thoughts that rise in the mind, the thought ‘I’ is the first thought.
- That which rises in this body as ‘I’ is the mind. If one enquires ‘In which place in the body does the thought ‘I’ rise first?’, it will be known to be in the heart [spiritual heart is ‘two digits to the right from the centre of the chest’]. Even if one incessantly thinks ‘I’, ‘I’, it will lead to that place (Self)’
- The mind will subside only by means of the enquiry ‘Who am I?’. The thought ‘Who am I?’, destroying all other thoughts, will itself finally be destroyed like the stick used for stirring the funeral pyre.
- If other thoughts rise, one should, without attempting to complete them, enquire, ‘To whom did they arise?’, it will be known ‘To me’. If one then enquires ‘Who am I?’, the mind (power of attention) will turn back to its source. By repeatedly practising thus, the power of the mind to abide in its source increases.
- The place where even the slightest trace of the ‘I’ does not exist, alone is Self.
- Self itself is the world; Self itself is ‘I’; Self itself is God; all is the Supreme Self (siva swarupam).
Sri Ramana warned against considering self-enquiry as an intellectual exercise. Properly done, it involves fixing the attention firmly and intensely on the feeling of ‘I’, without thinking. It is perhaps more helpful to see it as ‘Self-attention’ or ‘Self-abiding’ (cf. Sri Sadhu Om – The Path of Sri Ramana Part I). The clue to this is in Sri Ramana’s own death experience when he was 16. After raising the question ‘Who am I?’ he “turned his attention very keenly towards himself” (cf. description above). Attention must be fixed on the ‘I’ until the feeling of duality disappears.Although he advocated self-enquiry as the fastest means to realization, he was also known to have advised the practice of bhakti and self-surrender (to one’s Deity or Guru) either concurrently or as an adequate alternative, which would ultimately converge with the path of self-enquiry.