Om Namo Ramanaya
The author of this book has made deep research from various angles upon the life and teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, and in this book he establishes with many proofs that Sri Ramana was a born Jnani and that the true import of the words ‘Sri Arunachala’ and ‘Sri Ramana’ is the Supreme Reality (sat-vastu). Just as the Adhyatma Ramayana reveals the divine nature of Lord Rama, so this book reveals the divine nature of Lord Ramana, but in a very concise manner. Therefore, there is no doubt that this book will satisfy true devotees by acting as a mirror of knowledge (jnana-darpana) revealing Sri Ramana’s true nature (paramartha swarupa) and His method of teaching.
Though many books have been published in many languages under titles such as ‘The Life of Sri Ramana’ and ‘The Teachings of Sri Ramana’, this book has a special greatness of its own. That is, while other books relate only about the name and form of Sri Ramana and His seeming outward life, this book not only describes His outward life but also expounds the inner essence of His teachings. And just as the whole Ramayana is displayed on a screen in just one showing, so this book narrates the whole of Sri Ramana’s life within the brief compass of one small volume, without omitting any important incidents.
The reason why this book has so much beauty and distinction is that its author, Sri Sadhu Om, is one of the closest devotees of our Gurudeva and, having lived with Him for many years, has been able to understand the inner meaning of His life and teachings, and thus he has had the fortune of becoming a true disciple (sad-sishya) worthy of his Sadguru. The fact that the great work The Path of Sri Ramana written by the author of this book in Tamil and English, has been welcomed with such great enthusiasm by so many people both in India and abroad, is proof of this truth.
It is certain that those fortunate people, who whole-heartedly cherish this rare book of investigation, will achieve the goal of life by attaining direct experience of Sri Bhagavan’s true nature.
Sri Natanananda Swami
20th May 1980
A Summary of the Life of Sri Ramana
For attaining liberation (mukti), among all the three worlds this earth is the only place, and among all the places on earth Bharata (India) is the best, whilst among all the holy places (kshetras) in Bharata, where various divine powers are manifest and functioning, Arunachala is the foremost.
Tiruvarur, Chidambaram and Kasi are the holy places which bestow liberation upon those who are born in, who see, or who die in them respectively, whereas Arunachala bestows liberation upon anyone who merely thinks of it!
Arunachala is the heart of the earth. It is the primal form or adi-linga of Lord Siva, the supreme reality. It is the hill of the fire of knowledge or jnanagni-parvata. Since when Brahma and Vishnu were deluded, it manifested itself between them as the hill of the light of knowledge, subduing their egos and graciously teaching them true knowledge, it was the jnana-guru even of them. Thus, from the very dawn of creation, Sri Arunachala has held the seat of jnana-guru for all the three worlds. Therefore, in order to teach true knowledge to the whole world, Arunachala manifested itself in this present age as the real sadguru in the form of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, and to reveal the truth that it is none other than Dakshinamurti, the primal teacher or adi-guru who manifested in the form of a young lad of sixteen. After the blossoming of self-knowledge at the age of sixteen It came to Arunachala and acceded to the seat of jnana-sadguru, and lived here for more than half a century saving countless souls from the disease of birth and death.
The supreme reality or para-brahman gradually matures all living beasts towards the attainment of self-knowledge through so many births and/until finally, when they are fully mature. It incarnates itself in the form of a sadguru and, attracting them as a magnet attracts iron, itpulls all such ripe souls to its divine feet from wheresoever on earth they were born and, by bestowing true knowledge upon them, it makes them one with itself in non-dual union – such is the gracious divine plan! What then is the holy name truly befitting that supreme reality which has thus taken the form of a sadguru in this present age? Since this divine incarnation whom we all generally adore by the sacred name of Sri Ramana Bhagavan, addresses the holy hill Annamalai (Arunachala) as ‘Arunachalaramana’ in the last stanza of his hymn Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai, it is clear that he applies the name ‘Ramana’ to Annamalai itself! Besides, by singing ‘Annamalai en anma’ (which means either ‘self, which is called Annamalai’ or ‘Annamalai, my self’) in verse 5 of Atma Vidya Kirtanam, he reveals that the self or atman, which he realised through his direct experience to be the supreme reality, is this Annamalai. And when we consider the reply he gave on another occasion to a devotee who asked about his real nature, namely, “Arunachalaramana is the supreme self (paramatman) who blissfully abides as consciousness in the cave of the heart-lotus of all different souls beginning with Hari (Lord Vishnu)!….”, is it not evident that he approves himself to be Arunachalaramana? Therefore, from all this, is it not clear that Arunachalaitself is Sri Ramana, that Sri Ramana himself is Arunachala, and that, since he himself has sung of Arunachala as ‘Arunachalaramana’, the holy name truly befitting him is Sri Arunachalaramana! Hence, though Bhagavan Sri Arunachalaramana, who thus shines as the Uttama Jnanacharya (the foremost teacher of jnana) and the Loka Maha Guru (the Guru for the whole world), is none other than the nameless and formless supreme Reality, in accordance with the outlook prevailing in the world of taking the course of the life of his body to be his sacred life history, let us see here a summary of the life of Sri Ramana.
In Tamil Nadu, thirty miles south-east of Madurai, there is a holy siva-kshetra named Tiruchuzhi in praise of which the great saints Sundaramurti and Manikkavachakar have sung. In this town there lived a virtuous brahmin couple named Sundaram Aiyar and Azhahammai. Sundaram Aiyar was a pleader in the local court. Generous and charitable by nature, he used to hospitably receive and feed all who came to him. Azhahammai was an ideal wife who used to sing the praises of the Lord even while doing her household duties. Bhagavan Sri Ramana was born as their second son at one o’clock in the morning of Tuesday, 30th December 1879, that is, under the Punarvasu star on the 16th day of Margazhi month in the Tamil year Pramathi, which was the sacred day of Tiruvadirai (the festival of Ardra in Margashirsha), the very day on which in ancient times Lord Siva, the supreme reality, first manifested as Arunachala in the form of the column of the fire of knowledge jnanagni-stambha between Brahma and Vishnu. His parents named him Venkataraman. His elder brother was Nagaswami, his younger brother was Nagasundaram, and Alarmelu was their sister.
Even in his early infancy, before he came to know any other thing, there spontaneously existed the remembrance ‘Arunachalam, Arunachalam’ within the tender heart of Venkataraman. However, at that time he did not know that ‘Arunachalam’ means ‘Tiruvannamalai’. There was merely an inward feeling ever existing in him, ‘Arunachala is the greatest of all, it is the most high’. It was only much later, when he was studying in the tenth standard in Madurai, in the month of November 1895, that he one day came to know through an elderly relative that Arunachala is Tiruvannamalai. Does not his life as a Jivan-Mukta (liberated soul) prove the truth of the divine saying, “Arunachala bestows liberation when merely thought of”?
Venkataraman completed his primary education in Tiruchuzhi and Dindukkal. Early in 1892, when he was twelve years old and was studying in Dindukkal, his father, Sundaram Aiyar, became seriously ill. As soon as Venkataraman heard this news, he came from Dindukkal to Tiruchuzhi, but four or five days later (on 18th February 1892) his father passed away. On seeing the body of his father, Venkataraman said with wonder. “Father himself is lying here! Why then do they say he has gone?” But someone who was present explained to him, “If this body were your father, would he not now show affection and speak to you with love? Therefore your father has gone.” In later years Sri Bhagavan related this incident and said:
While my mother and brothers were weeping, I was all the time wondering intently ‘What is death?’ For hours I pondered over this question, until after the corpse was cremated, when I finally concluded, “that which sees and hears, through the senses and that which makes the body walk, talk and act, is only ‘I’. Reflecting thus, I understood that whereas I was knowing the ‘I’ in me, my father’s ‘I’ had left the body”. This idea continued to work in my mind until the day when self-knowledge dawned.
Thus this incident roused in the heart of Venkataraman a spark of the fire of knowledge in the form of the understanding that this insentient body was not his father, the sentient being. This understanding was a seed of the self-knowledge which later blossomed in him at the age of sixteen.
After the death of his father, Venkataraman and his elder brother, Nagaswami, moved to Madurai, where they lived in the house of their paternal uncle, Subbaiyar, and continued their higher education in the American Mission High School. Though he had a clear, subtle intellect and a keen power of memory, he did not use them in his school work. He appeared to be merely an average student in his class. He had a strong and healthy body, however, and stood foremost in wrestling, football, staff-fighting, swimming and so on.
In those days Venkataraman used to go to the temple together with his friends, worship the deities in the normal manner and then return. But one day, perhaps shortly after he came to know that Arunachala is Tiruvannamalai, he happened to come across a prose-rendering of Periyapuranam, a work relating the divine lives of the sixty-three Nayanmars, the Tamil Saivite saints. As soon as he read it, a great fire of love for Lord Siva flared up within his heart, leaving him with a profound and intensely felt longing to attain such pure devotion as that of the Nayanmars. Even this, however, was not the principal cause of his attaining self-knowledge or atma-jnana. Before he stood for the tenth standard examination, a great divine change all of a sudden took place in his life. How did it happen?
It was a day in mid-July in the year 1896; Venkataraman was sitting alone in a small room upstairs. Though there was no sickness in the body, a great fear of death arose within him as if he were about to die. It was felt by him not merely as an imaginary or superficial fear, but as an experience of actual death. Venkataraman was not perturbed by this. He did not even inform anyone of it. He boldly welcomed the forthcoming death and ventured to scrutinize it and find the result for himself. “All right, death has come; let it come. What is death? To whom does it come? To me; who am I? What is it that is dying? It is merely this body that is dying; let it die!” Deciding thus, he lay down stretching his arms and legs. Closing his lips tightly and remaining without speech or breath, he turned his attention very keenly within, towards himself. Death was experienced! What did he come to know at that time? In later years he himself described the truth which he experienced then in the following words:
“All right, this body is dead. Now it will be taken to the cremation-ground and burst. It will become ashes. But with the destruction of this body, am I also destroyed? Am I really this body? Here, even after this body has become a corpse, untouched in the least by this death I am still existing and shining! Therefore, this perishable body is not ‘I’. This body is different; I am different. I am only the indestructible ‘I’ (the real self). Of all things, I, unbound by the body, alone am perfectly real! This body and world are meant only for destruction. But I, who transcend the body, am the ever-existing supreme reality!” This death-experience was described by Sri Bhagavan on many occasions, though he seldom described it in great detail. The description given here in Sri Bhagavan’s own words is as it was heard by the author on several occasions.
This atma-jnana or true knowledge of self shone forth in him within a split second as a direct experience, without the least action of mind or speech, and as clear as a fruit in the hand. Even the fear of death which had risen in him a short while before vanished entirely, never to appear again! From that time onward, this state of self-experience which is the true waking state, continued to shine in him eternally as his natural state, unbound by time and space.
Many people used to believe and even to write, however, that it was only after remaining with his eyes closed performing deliberate austerities or tapas for many years in Tiruvannamalai that Sri Ramana Bhagavan attained self-realisation or atma-sakshatkaram, and that it was only after performing further tapas for many more years that he at last attained the natural state or sahajasthiti. But on many occasions in the last years of his bodily life, Sri Bhagavan himself clearly refuted such ideas. He once said, “The same sun that rose in Madurai is also in Tiruvannamalai. Nothing was newly added to or removed from me”. And on another occasion, on 4th October 1946, when a devotee named Prof. D.S. Sarma asked him whether there was ever any period of purgation or sadhana in his life, Sri Bhagavan replied:
I know no such period, I never performed any pranayama or japa. I knew no mantras. I had no idea of meditation or contemplation. Even when I came to hear of such things later, I was never attracted by them. Even now my mind refuses to pay any attention to them. Sadhana implies an object to be gained and the means of gaining it. What is there to be gained which we do not already possess? In meditation, concentration and contemplation, what we have to do is only not to think of anything, but to be still! Then we shall be in our natural state. This natural state is given many names – Moksha, Jnana, Atma and so on. There was a time when I used to remain with my eyes closed. That does not mean that I was practising any sadhana then. Even now I sometimes remain with my eyes closed. If people choose to say that I am doing some sadhana at the moment, let them say so. It makes no difference to me. People seem to think that by practising some elaborate sadhana the self would some day descend upon them as something very big and with tremendous glory and that they would then have what is called sakshatkaram (realisation). The self is sakshat (directly known), all right, but there is no karam (making) or kritam (made) about it. The word karam implies one’s doing something. But the self is realised not by one’s doing something, but by one’s refraining from doing anything – by remaining still and being simply what one really is!
Thus, without an outer Guru either in human form or in any of the forms of God and without the strain of performing any age long inner spiritual practices (sadhana) or austerities (tapas), but prompted only by the fear of death which overpowered him of its own accord, Venkataraman attained, even as a sixteen-year-old schoolboy, the wealth of supreme knowledge (siva-jnana) within a brief moment! The knowledge of the reality which dawned in him on that day ever remained the same, without either increase or decrease. Venkataraman thus attained on the very first attempt the natural state of self knowledge or sahaja-atma-jnana-sthiti, which is declared by the Upanishads and all other Vedantic scriptures to be the unsurpassed state and the summum bonum or supreme objective of human birth (parama purushartha)!
History bears testimony to the fact that for every Great Soul who came on earth, including Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, there was some person outside who acted as their Sadguru and who bestowed Grace upon them. Although a very few highly mature souls such as Lord Buddha were able to realise the truth without a Jnana-Guru in human form, is it not true that even they were able to do so only after going to so many false and worthwhile gurus and being disappointed by them, and after performing strenuous tapas for so many years? But Bhagavan Sri Ramana, just like Adiguru Dakshinamurti, became the Guru for all the worlds without undertaking any such prolonged or strenuous efforts and without himself having any Sadguru except the self or atman itself!
The experience of self-realisation brought forth indescribable vast changes even in the outward life of Venkataraman. Since it was his clear experience that he was the eternal and perfect reality which is other than the body, from that day onwards his life was transformed into a new and wondrous one which could in no way be congruent with that of ordinary people, a life which they could not even understand, let alone imitate, no matter how hard they might try.
After this experience, the slight interest in school lessons which existed previously left him completely. He still went to school, but only to please others. Even the taste for games disappeared entirely. The attachment and love towards friends and relatives also faded away, as did the interest in food and mundane activities. He, who in the past had always fought for the right, now became indifferent and no longer reacted in any way towards any kind of wrong or right. His previous nature of responding with severe blows if anyone scolded him changed, and now a sweet smile of forgiveness and indifference would appear on his face as a reply!
This self-realisation brought about a wonderful change, transforming him into a perfect Sadhu. Love, non-violence, patience, compassion, forgiveness and all other such divine qualities settled in him naturally and in full, not because of any practice or effort to cultivate them, but as an automatic result of his self-experience! Just as a dream becomes empty and unreal to one who has woken up from it, so to Venkataraman this life of worldly activity became meaningless, dry and unreal. From that time onwards, he was often to be seen sitting in solitude, absorbed and revelling in the experience of self. In short, the former Venkataraman was no longer there, and Bhagavan Ramana alone was shining!
A sign of this rare self-absorption or atma-nishtha was seen in Sri Ramana on one occasion even when he was only an eleven year old child studying at Dindukkal. But those who were around him at that time did not recognise its preciousness and rarity. One day, while his relatives had gone out, Sri Ramana lay on his bed after locking the house from inside. On their return, even though his relatives knocked at the door and called him loudly, the door was not opened. After finding another way to enter the house, they again tried to wake him from his sound sleep by shaking, rolling and beating his body heavily, but in spite of all their efforts he did not wake up! After sometime, however, he awakened from that state of his own accord. The people assembled there wondered at this, exclaiming, ‘A sleep of Kumbhakarna!’ But this state was neither a dull sleep nor a swoon; it was in truth the state of self-absorption or samadhi! Once in later years Sri Bhagavan remarked about this, “Perhaps some vittakurai-tottakurai (the remaining of something began and left incomplete) was continuing to stick.
Since Venkataraman had lost all interest in his studies, his school-teacher began to punish him. Even Nagaswami, his elder brother, grew angry noticing the vast change in him. Seeing him often sitting in self-absorption, he used to jeer at him, “What a great Sage, a yogiswara!” But Sri Ramana, who had a clear knowledge of the Reality and who was thereby unshakable, did not mind all this. One day, because he had failed to learn an English grammar lesson, his teacher gave him an imposition, saying, “Write this lesson again three times.”
Next day was Saturday, 29th August 1896. Sri Ramana had written the imposition twice, whereupon he felt disgust for such useless school-work. Throwing away the pencil and notebook, he sat up and closed his eyes in self-absorption (nishtha). Nagaswami, who was sitting nearby, was saddened on seeing this. With the intention of correcting his younger brother, he exclaimed with pity and anger, “Why all these for one like this?” To Sri Ramana, who would usually have been indifferent towards such a remark, the words seemed meaningful on this particular occasion. Thinking, “Yes, what he says is true. What do I now have to do here with these things? Nothing.” Sri Ramana immediately resolved to leave the house. At that moment the remembrance of Arunachala spontaneously flashed through his mind. “Yes, Arunachala is now the only place I should go to.” he decided and at once got up and began to walk out. As he did so, Nagaswami asked him to get five rupees from their aunt and pay his college fees.
Sri Ramana consulted an old map of Madras Presidency, which unfortunately did not show the branch-line from Villupuram to Katpadi, midway along which lies Tiruvannamalai. He therefore thought that Dindivanam was the closest railway station to Tiruvannamalai. Out of the five rupees given by his aunt, he took with him only three, hastily wrote a note and, leaving it along with the remaining two rupees, he left the house. The note said:
At the bottom of the note there was no signature. Only a straight line was drawn! The wording and formation of the sentence here contain profound meaning and are most important. The insertion just after the word ‘I’ of the phrase ‘in search of my Father’ holds a good lesson for those would-be Vedantins who merely talk of non-duality (advaita), namely the lesson that so long as the ego, the individual sense of ‘I’, exists, it is wrong to deny the existence of God or to mock at the individual’s feeling of dual love towards him, instead of depending upon him as one’s sole refuge. This word ‘I’, the first word of the first sentence, then changes into ‘this’ in the next sentence! Finally, this ‘this’ also vanishes, and the note ends without even a signature!!
Yes, the human body, which is felt to be ‘I’ so long as the ‘I’-ness (the ego or ahankara) and the ‘mine’-ness (the sense of possession or mamakara) exists, becomes ‘this’, an insentient and alien object, as soon as the ‘I’-ness and ‘mine’-ness are surrendered to God! Finally, when the non-dual union with the supreme takes place, what can remain other than the Supreme? It is this state of oneness which is shown by the absence of even a signature! Thus, was not the state of perfect Jnana shining in him even at the age of sixteen?
Sri Ramana went to Madurai railway station. In those days, the three rupees which he had taken thinking it to be the approximate train fare was exactly the right amount to go from Madurai direct to Tiruvannamalai. But what was to happen? Not knowing that he could go all the way to Tiruvannamalai by train, he took a ticket to Dindivanam instead and got into the train. During the journey a maulvi (an Islamic priest) sat near him and talked to him of his own accord, informing him that he should change train at Villupuram to go to Tiruvannamalai. Now, with the money still remaining, Sri Ramana was able to reach only as far as Mambazhappattu. There he got down, and after walking ten miles in the direction of Arunachala he reached Araiyaninallur temple near Tirukkoilur. However, he was not allowed to stay there for the night, so he walked down with the priest to Viratteeeswara temple in Kizhur. After the priest had completed the puja, Sri Ramana, who was tired and hungry, asked him for a little temple prasadam (the food consecrated by being offered to God). The Brahmin priest refused. On seeing this, the temple piper said with compassion, “Sir, kindly give him at least my portion of the prasadam”. On account of this request of that virtuous man, who illustrated by his action the description of a true Brahmin as given in verse 30 of Tirukkural, “The brahmin is the virtuous one who is compassionate to every living being”, a little food was given to him. Sri Ramana spent that night nearby, and the next morning, which was the day of Sri Krishna Jayanthi, he happened to come to the house of one Muttukrishna Bhagavatar. After he had taken some food in the Bhagavatar’s house, the two gold ear-rings which he was wearing came suddenly to his memory. Removing them from his ears, he handed them over to the Bhagavatar and was given four rupees, which enabled him to take the train that night to Tiruvannamalai. Early in the morning of the next day, which was Tuesday, 1st September 1896, he reached Sri Arunachala, which had occupied his heart from his childhood and which had now robbed off his mind and drawn him near!
He went directly to the inner Shrine of Sri Arunachaleswara temple and surrendered himself completely. At that time the doors of the Shrine were open and no one was present, so Sri Ramana entered and embraced Sri Arunachaleswara Lingam. At once the intense heat which had existed till then in his body subsided, whereupon both body and soul were cooled. The journey of the soul thus ended, merging like a river into the ocean of supreme bliss. He came out with his heart full of the joy of the treasure of Jnana. Since the freedom of thought, freedom of speech and freedom of action were no longer his but were restored to Sri Arunachaleswara, without the least sense of doership Sri Ramana became a Parama-mauni, one who is perfectly silent. In such a state, he was approached by someone and asked, “Swami, will you have your head shaved?” Taking it to be the will of Sri Arunachala, he nodded affirmatively. The young Sri Ramana’s long, fine and wavy hair, which resembled a beautiful black creeper, was in no time removed, leaving a clean-shaven head. He threw away the sacred thread, the sign of his caste, and from his dhoti he tore off a piece to wear as a loin-cloth and discarded the rest, together with the remaining money, which was tied in a corner of it. He also cast aside into the nearby
Ayyankulam tank the packet of sweets given to him in the Bhagavatar’s house during his journey. He did not even take a bath after being shaved, but on his return, before reaching the temple, there was an unexpected downpour! This shower from the sky was perhaps the avabrithasnanam (a ceremonial bath given on completion of tapas) given by Sri Arunachala to his divine son! On re-entering the temple, Sri Ramana sat absorbed in self-abidance (atma-nishtha) in the thousand-pillared mantapam.
But can the foolish human world understand the greatness of Sages? Some wicked people and mischievous children started to give him trouble by mocking. “Mad boy, dumb fellow”, and by throwing stones and pieces of broken pot. Yes, it is the usual treatment given to all Great Ones who came on earth, is it not? Did not Buddha, Mahavira, Lord Jesus and others receive such treatment from the people? This was therefore nothing new. Though indifferent to them, Sri Ramana withdrew himself from their sight and went down into a nearby underground temple called ‘Patala Lingam’. Even in daytime no one dared to go into this cave, so dark it was, but there he sat immersed in self-absorption (samadhi), concealing himself in a corner behind the lingam. Many days passed without any food or drink, yet he did not stir from samadhi! To him who was established as one with the reality, which transcends the knowledge of the body and world, where was hunger and thirst for the body or even for the mind? To him who was drowned in the bliss of Jnana, which is devoid of the body, where was even the least feeling of misery caused by the external world? No such hunger or misery existed for him at all!
The damp earthen ground on which Sri Ramana sat was infested with ants, termites, mosquitoes, flies, and poisonous creatures like centipedes. They began to eat away the lower portion of his thighs. Many wounds were formed, and blood started to ooze out. The oozing blood clotted, pus formed, and both mixed with the mud underneath, thus sealing the body to the ground. Yet nothing of this known to him! He was not affected by it even in the least! Do we not read stories in the Puranas about Rishis such as Valmiki who were immersed in tapas while ant-hills grew over their bodies and birds made nests and lived on their heads? By living thus before our eyes, Sri Ramana has proved to the world in modern times the truth that the stories which tell of such a rare state are not false!
Only many days later did this become known to people. How? A great soul named Sri Seshadri Swami was living in Tiruvannamalai at that time. Though he appeared in the eyes of ordinary people to be a madman, he was in fact a saint. Some good folk understood him to be in an exalted state and revered him. Does not the proverb say, ‘The legs of the snake are known only to a snake’? Accordingly, Sri Seshadri Swami was able to clearly understand the greatness of the Jnana of Sri Ramana. He often used to go into the Patala Lingam and see the young Sri Ramana. One day, when he was just coming out, he informed Venkataraman Mudaliar, a devotee of his, “There is a small Swami inside, go and see”, and so saying he walked away. Since it was dark even in daytime, Venkatachala Mudaliar took a lantern and along with some others entered the Patala Lingam cave. Though they called loudly there was no response, so they lifted the motionless body of Sri Ramana. Alas! Since the lower portion of the body was forcibly separated from the ground to which it was sealed, the wounds were freshly opened, and blood rushed out! Frightened and awe-struck on seeing this, the devotees carefully brought Sri Ramana out and gently placed him in the Gopuram Subramania temple. Even then Sri Ramana did not regain body-consciousness, but remained in the state of samadhi!
Some devotees, understanding him to be God in human form, engaged themselves with great fervour and devotion in his service. Once in many days, whenever he opened his eyes, they would feed him with something such as milk, liquid food or banana. The bodily activities of Sri Ramana, namely his taking food and answering the calls of nature, went on just like those of a sleeping child. On those occasions when he did not open his eyes for some days, the devotees would themselves open his mouth and forcibly pour in a little food at least in liquid form!
After living for some months in Sri Arunachaleswara temple, Sri Ramana wished to be alone, for he did not like people often crowding around to see him. Therefore, from the early part of 1897 he lived in Gurumurtam temple and in the adjacent mango grove, which were places of solitude, remaining there in samadhi for about one and a half years.
Meanwhile, the note which Sri Bhagavan had left in Madurai had been found, whereupon his elder brother, uncle, relatives, and mother, Azhahammai, had begun to search for him in many places, but had so far been disappointed. At last they came to know of his whereabouts through one Annamalai Tambiram, a devotee who had been serving him in Gurumurtam temple. Since Subbaiyar, the uncle with whom Sri Bhagavan had been living in Madurai, had died recently (on 1st May 1898), Nellaiyappaiyar, Subbaiyar’s younger brother, came at once to Tiruvannamalai. But no matter how much his uncle entreated him to come back to Madurai, Sri Bhagavan remained silent, so he had to return home disappointed.
Since the effort of Nellaiyappaiyar had failed, Azhahammai herself came to Arunachala as soon as she could, that is, in December 1898. At that time Sri Ramana was living on Pavalakkundru, an eastern spur of Arunachala, to which he had come in September of that year. On seeing the pitiable condition of her son, the mother’s heart was much grieved.
“My dear child, come home to Madurai. When you are here wearing only a loin-cloth and lying on stones and thorns, how can I bear to live in a comfortable home? Do not show such vairagya, do not be stubborn; your mother’s heart is burning with agony!”- thus she wept bitterly, imploring him in so many ways. Even Nagaswami pleaded repentantly, “I only said those things in an ordinary way. I did not think that it would result like this!” and thus entreated him with many appeasing words. Though they stayed with him for ten days, earnestly and painstakingly begging him in so many ways to return home, not even the slightest sign of consent or refusal was seen on the face of Sri Bhagavan! He remained silent throughout. Unable to bear this pitiable sight, some devotees prayed, “Swami, your mother is distraught with grief. Graciously express your opinion, at least in writing”, and gave him a piece of paper and a pencil. Sri Bhagavan wrote –
“According to the destiny (prarabdha) of each person, the Ordainer, being in each place, makes them act. That which is never to happen will not happen, however much effort is made; that which is to happen will not stop, however much obstruction is made. This is certain. Hence, to remain silent is best."
What a firmness of knowledge (jnana)! What a firmness free not only of likes but also of dislikes!! How great an immovability of mind, when even a mountain would have been moved!
The state/splendour/grandeur of one who abides/remains subsided unshaken/without swerving from in the state (the natural state of self) is greater than the grandeur/splendour of a mountain.
Even if a mountain were to fall, be not moved from the state (of self).
Seeing the reply of Sri Bhagavan, what could the devotees and mother do? Azhahammai returned home overwhelmed with grief.
When it is a fact known to the whole world that in later days not only human beings but even beasts and birds enjoyed the supreme compassion (parama karuna) of Sri Bhagavan, do not many of us wonder why he behaved in this manner only towards his mother?
So long as the mother’s heart, being filled with the ignorance ‘I’ and ‘mine’, showed its attachment in the form, ‘You are my son; I am your mother, the one who is to protect you. Come to my place (Madurai)’, was it not the part of Sri Bhagavan to remove this ignorant outlook by his divine grace and thereby to save her? Therefore, by the sword of his reply in the form of this supreme silence, he was in fact cutting through and rooting out that terrible knot of attachment (abhimana-granthi). It was not to abandon his mother, but only to save her, that he made her return home with grief! It was to make her renounce everything in later years and to come and take her divine son as her sole refuge. On another occasion, in 1914, when Azhahammai came to see her son, she had a severe attack of typhoid fever. At that time Sri Bhagavan composed four verses, whereupon the fever subsided, and she returned home to Madurai.
In February 1899 Sri Ramana moved to Virupaksha cave on the holy hill Annamalai (Arunachala). It was only at that time that swarm of disciples thirsting for self-knowledge first began to gather around Sri Bhagavan, the fully blossomed lotus of Jnana, to drink the honey of his teachings. When the tree is full of ripe fruit, is it necessary to call the fruit-bats? The mere silent and gracious presence of Sri Bhagavan was the sun of self-knowledge which was itself sufficient to clear the devotees’ doubts and to blossom their hearts. The young Sri Ramana sadguru was at that time only about twenty years of age, while the disciples who came to him with the hunger for self-knowledge were much older and also very learned!
What a wonder ‘twas indeed
That happened under the banyan tree,
The Guru was young, the disciples old,
And silence was the speech he told,
Yet all at once their doubts were cleared
And their ignorance disappeared!
The same wonder was found to shine
In Sri Ramana’s Presence divine!
Though the world was able to receive some teachings from Lord Ramana in writing and later through speech also, there were many aspirants in search of liberation whose doubts were all cleared and who were saved by his mere silent presence.
In one of his stray verses Sri Ramana says, “Silence is the state (or form) of grace, the one (unequalled) language that is (ever) surging within.” And on many occasions, he used to say, “Silence is the only teaching (upadesa) that gives fruit unfailingly. Writing or speech can never stand equal to it; sometimes they may even be a hindrance!”
In the year 1900, a certain Gambhiram Seshayyar, who was making efforts on the path of raja yoga, used to present his doubts to Sri Ramana when he opened his eyes from samadhi, and give him pieces of paper and a pencil. The replies which Sri Bhagavan wrote for him were in later years edited by a devotee named Sri Natananandar and published under the title Vichara Sangraham. Then the teachings that were received in a similar manner in the form of questions and answers by the devotee Sri Sivaprakasam Pillai in the year 1902 afterwards became the work Nan Yar? (Who am I?). This work is now famous throughout the world because, though small in size, it is great in its power to show the world the path to salvation. The answers given by Sri Bhagavan to the doubts and questions of Sri Natananandar became the work Upadesa Manjari.
On 18th November 1907 a Sanskrit poet named Kavyakantha Ganapati Sastri came to Sri Bhagavan. He was a great asukavi (one who has the ability to compose extempore verses on any given subject). His disciples even used to call him Ganapati Muni. He was an ascetic (tapasvi) who had performed repetition of sacred words (mantra-japa) to his utmost capacity. He was a man of vast learning. In spite of all this, however, he was unable to know what real tapas (spiritual practice or austerity/ascetism) is, and hence he came to see Sri Ramana with the desire that his doubts should be cleared. “I have learnt all the great vedas, performed many crores of mantra-japa and undergone fasting, taking only the smallest quantities of food, yet it is still not clear to me what is meant by ‘tapas’; graciously instruct me”, he prayed to Sri Bhagavan. In reply, Sri Bhagavan remained silent for fifteen minutes, fixing his gracious glance on Ganapati Sastri. Then Ganapati Sastri again humbly prayed, “I have read about such initiation by sight (chakshu-diksha) in the sastras, but I am unable to understand the truth that is taught through it; so graciously instruct me through words.” Therefore, Sri Ramana replied, “If one watches (or attends to) that wherefrom the ‘I-I’ starts, there the mind will subside; that alone is tapas”. But Ganapati Sastri then asked whether that same state could not be attained even by mantra-japa, so seeing his attachment towards japa Sri Bhagavan further instructed, “If one repeats a mantra and if one watches wherefrom the sound of that mantra starts , there the mind subside; that itself is tapas”.
Having received these instructions, Ganapati Muni declared with admiration, “He is the foremost Jnanacharya and he ever remains in natural self-abidance (sahajatmanishtha); hence he is no ordinary soul. He is indeed Bhagavan Maharshi”, and praised him in verses as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. It was only from that day that he came to be known by this name.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana was a unique divine poet. His majestic style of poetry in Tamil, his mother tongue, breathes a fresh life into the literary style of the poets of yore. It is a terse, noble and graceful style of sublime Tamil and is beautiful and rich in meaning. Sri Ramana was a divine poet (jnana-kavi) who has given us upanishads in Tamil. In addition to that, he was a great poet even in Sanskrit, Malayalam and Telugu, and he was the very first person to show how to handle the prosody of the Tamil venba metre in those three languages.
Mother Tamil has been adorned by Bhagavan Sri Ramana with ever so many unequalled gems of Jnana in the form of a wealth of verses. However, Sri Ramana was not merely a writer. He never had even the least volition (sankalpa) that he should write any works. Indeed, volitionlessness (nissankalpa) was his state from the very day he set foot in Arunachala in the year 1896.
When such was the case, how was the world blessed with works containing the teachings of Sri Ramana? Does there not exist one God, the supreme power (parameswara sakti) who creates, sustains and destroys the whole universe? It was that very power who, using Bhagavan Ramana’s mind, speech and body as instruments and taking the questions, doubts and prayers of the devotees as cause, made him sing verses for the salvation of humanity. If anyone were to ask anything concerning spiritual matters, sweet and rare Tamil verses would at times blossom forth from Sri Bhagavan as a reply. The gems of instruction in the form of the works of Sri Ramana’s teachings, with which we are now blessed, are those that spilt from him in this manner. All of them have been collected together and compiled in Tamil under the title Sri Ramana Nutrirattu (The Collected Works of Sri Ramana). Among Sri Bhagavan’s works, five hymns (stotras) and three scriptures (sastras) are most important. The five hymns are called Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam, and the three scriptures are Upadesa Undiyar, Ulladhu Narpadu and Guru Vachaka Kovai.
In response to the earnest supplications of Sri Muruganar, the foremost among the devotees and a Tamil poet of surpassing excellence, Sri Bhagavan not only composed Upadesa Undiyar (which he later translated into Telugu, Sanskrit and Malayalam under the title Upadesa Saram, the Essence of Instructions) but also, by revising some of his already existing verses and by composing many new ones, compiled Ulladu Narpadu (The Forty Verses on Reality), which is an unequalled and unsurpassed Upanishad. The work Guru Vachaka Kovai (The Garland of Guru’s Sayings) is the treasure-house of Sri Ramana’s teachings, collected and preserved by Sri Muruganar as a garland of Tamil verses, all of them being the day-to-day words of instruction spoken by Sri Bhagavan from the very early days. These three great works of Sri Ramana’s teachings, which have all come into existence solely because of Sri Muruganar, form Sri Ramana Prasthanatraya, the three fundamental texts of Sri Ramana’s divine revelation.
The holy hill Arunachala is the primal and foremost form of Lord Siva, the supreme reality. Indeed, this hill is Siva himself.
Sri Bhagavan once said, “The whole hill is sacred. It is Siva himself. Just as we identify ourselves with a body, so Siva has chosen to identify himself with the hill. Arunachala is pure wisdom (jnana) in the form of a hill. It is out of compassion to those who seek him that he has chosen to reveal himself in the form of a hill visible to the eye. The seeker will obtain guidance and solace by staying near this hill”.
Sages not only show us the path, but also set an example by treading it themselves! In this way Bhagavan Sri Ramana himself often did Arunagiri-pradakshina (that is, walking barefoot around Arunachala, having it to one’s right-hand side) accompanied by his devotees. Goddess Unnamulai Ambikai herself did pradakshina of this Arunachala and thereby attained the state of Ardhanariswara (the lord with a half-female form). Why, when even Sri Arunachaleswara, the divine lord in the great temple of Tiruvannamalai, goes round Annamalai twice every year, how can we possibly conceive the full glory of Arunagiri-pradakshina? It was while doing one such Giri-pradakshina in the early days, around the year 1914, that Bhagavan Sri Ramana composed Sri Arunachala Aksharamanamalai (The Bridal Garland of Letters to Sri Arunachala), the first hymn of Sri Arunachala Stuti Panchakam! Many thousands of the devotees of Sri Ramana, taking this Aksharamanamalai as a means to liberation (moksha-sadhana), recite it daily with great love in order to remember Arunachala, mere thought of which bestows liberation.
To have been the birthplace of such a Loka Maha Guru is the great fortune of Tamil Nadu. To have given birth to this great one, to have brought him up and to have sacrificed him for the benefit of the whole world was an unequalled blessing for Mother Azhahammai. As a result of this sacrifice she was to attain in later days the transcendent state of liberation! She became a prey to the divine attraction of the grace of Bhagavan Sri Ramana, who lived as an atitasrami, one for whom attachment and detachment are both one and the same. Finally, having renounced her native place, relatives, home and all worldly desires, in 1916 mother came to Arunachala and became one among the disciples who had taken Lord Ramana as their Jnana-Guru. Following her example, Bhagavan’s younger brother, Nagasundaram, also came in the same way. He later became a sannyasi, taking the name Sri Niranjanananda Swami, and it was he who afterwards became the cause for the formation and development of the present Sri Ramanasramam. Some devotees feared at that time that Sri Bhagavan might leave and go elsewhere, thinking it to be a bondage if relatives surrounded him. There were also some objections raised against mother living on the hill. Little did those devotees know, however, that in the case of Sri Bhagavan relatives could now only float on the surface like lily leaves, and could never be like salt, which dissolves in and contaminates the water. Sri Bhagavan exemplified to the modern world that by the strength of the natural state of self (sahajatma-sthiti,) one can live with mental detachment in all circumstances.
Later on, the devotees constructed a small and pleasant abode still higher up the hill. Though many devotees were engaged in building this asramam, the main cause behind its construction was the herculean efforts of one devotee called Kandaswami, and hence it was named after him as Skandasramam. Sri Bhagavan lived there from 1916 till the end of 1922. In May of that year mother Azhahammai fell ill. During her last hours Sri Bhagavan sat for a long time by her side, placing upon her his hands, which possess yogic power, the right one on her heart and the left one her head. At that time a great inner war took place between her many past tendencies towards action (purva karma-vasanas), which would have caused her many future births, and the divine power of Sri Bhagavan’s hands, until finally all those tendencies had subsided and been destroyed, whereupon her soul reached the heart-space and became one with Brahman. She left her body on the night of Friday, 19th May 1922 after which Bhagavan Sri Ramana himself stated that she had attained liberation (mukti). Her sacred body was buried on the banks of Palitirtham, a tank at the foot of the southern slope of Arunachala. Since she was a liberated soul, a Sivalingam was installed over her tomb and is now worshipped as Sri Matrubhuteswara. It is fitting that in later years the filial love of Sri Niranjanananda Swami built a fine temple for mother, who had given a body-temple for Sri Bhagavan to live on earth.
Sri Ramana Bhagavan often used to come from Skandasramam to visit mother’s tomb, which was at first sheltered by a small thatched hut. Then in December 1922, according to the divine will, Sri Bhagavan came and settled there permanently. In due course many devotees began to flock there in order to stay and see Sri Bhagavan. Therefore in his presence there slowly appeared many fine buildings, which form the present Sri Ramanasramam.
The everyday life of Sri Bhagavan was one of perfect equality. Till the end he wore only a loin-cloth, which is less than the dress needed by even the poorest among our countrymen. The same was the case with his food, he would eat sitting with all people as an equal. He would accept only what was served to all, and even less in quantity than was served to others. Whoever offered whatever eatables in his presence, it would be equally divided and distributed then and there. Equal status and rights were even given there to all creatures such as cows, dogs, monkeys, squirrels and peacocks. Cow Lakshmi lived in the Ashramam as a pet daughter and finally attained liberation on 18th June 1948 through the divine touch (hasta-diksha) of Sri Bhagavan.
The doors of the hall where Sri Bhagavan lived were kept open day and night. In a life such as his, which was shining as an open and unlimited space of consciousness (chit-akasa), how to be concealed? And where was the need to be concealed? Even in the middle of the night devotees were free to go and see him. “Defects alone need to hide, a pure heart need not!” says saint Auvaiyar. The good fortune of having his darshan was open to all people at all times and was never bound by any conditions. When in the early days of the Asramam he gave a warm welcome even to some thieves who came at night, saying to them, “You may come in and take whatever you want”, what more proof is needed to show the open life by Sri Bhagavan?
It was 11.30 in the night of 26th June 1924. In those days Sri Ramanasramam consisted of only a few thatched huts. But thinking it to be a rich math, some thieves came there, broke the windows and threatened to destroy everything. Some devotees were in the same room where Bhagavan Sri Ramana was lying. Sri Bhagavan invited the thieves to come in and asked the devotees to give them a hurricane lamp so that they could see in the dark and take whatever they wanted. “Where are you keeping all your money?” shouted the thieves angrily. “We are sadhus who live on begged food, we have no money. You may take whatever is here. We will go and sit outside”, so saying Sri Bhagavan came out with the devotees and sat down. As they came out, the thieves gave each of them a beating. One blow even fell on the left thigh of Sri Bhagavan! “If you are not satisfied beat the other thigh also”, said Sri Bhagavan with sympathy.
Was that all the compassion he showed to the thieves! Restraining a young disciple who was about to attack the thieves, Sri Bhagavan advised him, “Let them do their dharma; we are sadhus, we should not give up our dharma. In future the world will blame only us for whatever happened as a result of our attacking them. When our teeth bite our tongue, do we break them and throw them away?”
Though others do wrong to one, it is best not to return the same in wrath.
Some days later the police caught the thieves, brought them before Sri Bhagavan and asked him, “Bhagavan, please show us who among them beat you”. With a smile Sri Bhagavan replied, “It was he whom I had beaten (in a former birth)! Find him out”, and never denounced the wrongdoer.
Conquer the foe by your worthy patience and forever forget the wrong done to you on account of ignorance.
The right way of punishing the wrongdoer is to do good to him and to forget his wrong.
Gradually people from all countries in the world were attracted to Bhagavan Ramana, understanding the truth that he was living embodiment of all that is taught in the Bible, Tirukkural, Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads. Forgetting national and religious differences, countless people even from far off countries came to him, praised him and bowed before him to be the Guru of their own religion. Among them, many mature souls attained self-knowledge, some by merely seeing him, some by the influence of his presence, some by living near him and serving him, and some by following his teachings.
In 1938 Babu Rajendra Prasad, who later became the first President of India, went to the asramam of Mahatma Gandhi and said, “Bapuji, I have come to your asramam in search of peace!” The abode of peace was well known to Gandhiji, and hence he advised, “If you want peace, go to Sri Ramamasramam and remain for a few days in the presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi without talking or asking any questions”. Rajendra Prasad accordingly arrived at Sri Ramamasramam on 14th August 1938. Though those who accompanied him spent their time in asking Sri Bhagavan questions regarding spiritual matters and in visiting all the places on the hill where he had lived, only Rajendra Prasad never moved away from the presence of Sri Bhagavan. Moreover, according to the advice of Gandhiji, he spent the whole of that week without talking or asking any questions. At the time of his departure, he approached Sri Bhagavan and humbly enquired, “O Bhagavan, it was Gandhiji himself who sent me here. Is there any message that I may take to him?”
“The same power which is working here is working there also! When heart speaks to heart, where is the need for words?” replied Sri Bhagavan! Do not these words of wisdom reveal the secret of the oneness of the all-pervading supreme reality? Thus, all great men who lived in our country during the time of Sri Ramana Bhagavan, such as rajas, poets, learned men, political leaders, philosophers and saints, praised the glory of his Jnana!
The last days of Bhagavan Sri Ramana’s bodily life showed the greatness of a Brahma-Jnani as clearly as a fruit in the hand. From the very day he set foot in Tiruvannamalai, he did not move away even for a minute, but lived there continuously for fifty-four years. In 1949 a sarcoma began to grow on the lower portion of his left upper arm. Though at first it was exceedingly small, after two operations it grew bigger than ever and began to drain blood continuously from the body. Many types of treatment were tried, including radium therapy. Even after a fourth operation was performed on 19th December 1949, the disease did not subside. Though this operation was a major one, Sri Bhagavan refused to be given chloroform. When asked by a devotee, “Was there no pain?” Sri Bhagavan replied, “Even the pain is not other than me”. Just as the teeth which bite our tongue are not other than us, and just as the thieves who beat Sri Ramana were not seen by him as other than himself, so even the disease and pain which were ravaging his body were not experienced by him as other than ‘I’ – such an otherless experience of self (ananya atma-bhava) was his mysterious state of Jnana!
Even in the midst of the great torture caused by the disease, with wise words full of humour Sri Bhagavan used to console the devotees who were grieving over his ill health. He once remarked, “This body itself is a disease which has come to us; if a disease comes to this disease, is it not good for us?” And to one devotee he said, “Are you all grieving because Swami is going away? Where to go? How to go? For whom is this coming and going? Only for the body! How can it be for us?” On another occasion he explained, “Just as a cow does not know whether the garland tied to its horns has fallen down or is still there, and just as a drunkard does not know whether the cloth which was on his body has fallen down or not, so a Jnani does not even know whether he still has a body or whether it has passed away!”
Sri Bhagavan requested that the devotees should not be prevented from seeing him till the very end. At 8.47 p.m. on Friday, 14th April 1950, when his body had been seated in padmasana, the breathing, which was going on steadily, finally merged in the heart. Bhagavan Sri Ramana thus removed his human disguise and shone without limitation or veiling in his natural state as the infinite space of Grace which knows no coming or going.
At that very moment, some devotees who were seated in the verandah of Sri Matrubhuteswara temple saw a bright light flash at the entrance of Sri Bhagavan’s room and engulf the surroundings. No sooner had they thought that it might have been a powerful photographic flashlight, than they noticed the people standing outside pointing at the sky and exclaiming, “Here is a jyoti; a jyoti is going”, for a white light was seen in the sky moving slowly towards the north and disappearing behind the top of Arunachala! Glory to the great Sri Ramana Jyoti!
The sacred body of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was interred between the mother’s temple and the hall where he used to live. A lingam was installed on his tomb and named Sri Ramanalinga Murthi. A beautiful mantapam was built over it and was consecrated by Mahakumbabhishekam on 18th June 1967. In front of this shrine a large auditorium was later constructed for conducting celebrations. The divine shrine of Bhagavan Sri Arunachalaramana, whose transcendent experience was ‘I am not this body, I am truly the ever-lasting supreme reality’, is ever pouring forth the nectar his grace and is thereby silently quenching mankind’s thirst for true knowledge!