Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) was a great spiritual teacher. He realised the Self in his seventeenth year. Self-realisation happened to him naturally, unaided by external instructions or guidance. A near-death experience one day led to a profound transformation. He was completely and irreversibly transformed and became a realised self. Sri Ramana Maharshi was born at Tirutcchali, near Madurai and studied up to IX class at Madurai during which time he had the near-death experience. He left home shortly after that and reached Arunaachala – Tiruvannaamalai (in Tamil Nadu) his favorite and most dear place and lived there till his death.
Sri Ramana Maharshi embodied the well known expression: “Brahma vit Brahma eva bhavati” – “The Knower of Brahman (Self) becomes the Brahman (Self)”. Brahman is He. He is Brahman. He is Atmārāmam and Rāmabrahmam. He is unoccupied, peaceful, blissful continuous awareness.
Self realised seers: (i) have compassion for all beings – sentient and insentient, (ii) possess lot of patience, (iii) experience no jealously, (iv) are clean physically and mentally, (v) never strain body or mind and are always relaxed, (vi) are always auspicious in thought, word and deed and always act selflessly for the welfare of others, (vii) give unselfishly and (viii) are always dispassionate in Unoccupied Awareness (niṣpṛhasya tṛṇam jagat – to the dispassionate the internal mental world and external world have no more worth than a blade of grass). All these are the natural qualities of the Brahmajñāni or ātmajñāni (the self-realised seer.) Sri Ramana Maharshi possessed all these traits; indeed he shone with them.
Vairāgyameva abhayam – “Dispassion cultivates fearlessness” was his life and the message of his life.
“Iśvaro guruḥ ātma iti mūrtībhedavibhāgine vyomavat vyāpya desāya (dehāya – body or form) śrī-dakṣiṇāmūrtaye namaḥ
The spiritual teacher – who may be our favorite deity like Shiva, Vishnu; our chosen teacher, either a living teacher or one of the great teachers of earlier times; or we ourselves in the form of our intuition – guides us in our spiritual path and to such a teacher do I bow down, the personification of Ṥrī Dakṣiṇāmūrtī (Lord Siva as the spiritual teacher according to the Saivaite tradition. Lord Vishnu as Hayagriva according to the Vaishnavaite tradition). This teacher permeates – as awareness – our body, our mind and the external world as sky (ākāśa) permeates space.
This describes Sri Ramana Maharshi well. Thus Sri Ramana Maharshi is Ṥrī Dakṣiṇāmūrtī Himself.
In Tamil Nadu there were 63 nāyanamārs – great Siva devotees, philosophers and spiritual personalities. Sri Tirugnaana Sambadhar is one among them. Tirugnnaana Sambandhar had a vision of Lord Siva and Parvati as an infant, when he was crying with hunger, and the divine couple appeared and served him milk. Tirugnaana Sambandhar had a filial affection for Lord Siva and his padikams (ten line spiritual expositions) reflect this. Many assume that Sri Ramana Maharshi is a reincarnation of Tirugnaana Sambandhar because of the similarity of their son-father-love for Lord Siva. As Venkata Raaman (as Sri Ramana Maharshi’s original name) he considered Lord Siva his father and was devoted to him. He used to prostrate himself and stand before Lord Sundareswara (presiding deity of Madurai Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple) with tears in his eyes and pray to the Lord after his near-death experience. He lost all interest in worldly things and affairs and gave himself up to meditation.
When he reached Arunaachala immediately after this and visited the grand Siva temple there for the first time, he said “I have come, Father!” standing before Lord Arunaachaleswara – the presiding deity of Arunachala. Even though he lived in Arunaachala for the rest of his life he never reentered the temple premises but still thought of the lord as his father. Kaavyakantha Sri Vaasishista Ganapathi Muni, a great scholar and his elderly contemporary and disciple, whom Sri Maharshi used to address as “nāyana” (which means in Telugu ‘father’) and who named him Sri Ramana Maharshi, declared that Sri Ramana Maharshi was an avatar of Lord Skanda (Lord Subrahmanya, the younger son of Lord Siva and Parvati).
Sri Ramana Maharshi attained self-realisation as described in Ribhu Gita (a spiritual book on self-realization) Lord Siva brought this about as a mother cat takes care of the kittens on its own, carrying them by the scruff of their necks, the maarjāla-kisora-nyāya (doctrine of the cat and its young). This incident is the lila (divine sport) of Lord Siva which transformed Venkata Raaman into Ramana Maharshi.
Daharā Vidya is an Upanishadic meditation technique. During this meditative process we question ourselves “who am I?” and try to know and merge our apparent identity – with our body, mental traits and all related things from this “I”, “me”, “mine” – collectively our self-consciousness and its relation to external world and persons (called technically the ‘false I’), with the Unoccupied Awareness (the real I or pure consciousness) which sources and generates – through maya and its transformations – our self-consciousness and the “false or unreal I”.
When we question thus and meditate we shed our false identity and transcend our “I”, “me”, “mine” to shine as our real I. According to Upanishadic mahāvākya (profound sentences) “Aham Brahma asmi”: the reall I is the Brahman or Atman, our True Self. This real I is sat- cit-ānanda (being-pure consciousness-bliss) the Brahman or Atman. We will become aware of this truth and win enlightenment. The real I is then identified with the pure consciousness. Peace-bliss-silence fill our mind.
Sri Ramana Maharshi’s teaching a refinement of this Upanishadic meditation technique:
He asks us to:
(i) Find out wherefrom this ‘I’ springs forth and with what it merges at its source; that is tapas (meditation):
(ii) Find out wherefrom the sound of the mantra in japa rises up and with what it merges at its source; that is tapas (meditation).
Sri Ramana Maharshi though is a jñāni and declared that the path of knowledge (jñāna yoga) is also a yogi of karma (action). Like Sri Adi Sankaraachaarya, he too took care of his mother and served her. He used to cut the vegetables in the ashram kitchen, getting up at 4am. On one occasion he took a cane, polished it and gave to the shepherd boy for his use – as an example of niṣkāma karma (dispassionate action).
Sri Ramana Maharshi demonstrated through his living and actions that a jñāni is never dissociated from the society. He is part and parcel of society. He used to say that a realised self silently guides society. By engaging in karma (actions} he showed that it is not right to say that jñānis need not do any karma. He thus dissolved the illusions and arrogance of many jñānis, dismissing the notion that through their renunciation of karma they are superior. Sri Ramana Maharsi also composed hymns in praise of Arunaachala Siva and Ṥrī Dakṣiṇāmūrtī. He had great compassion and showered it on the animals too that lived in the ashram. The love and affection shown to Lakshmi, the ashram cow, is one example for this.
Sri Ramana Maharshi informs us through his life that we are all in a state of saṃsāra and must make efforts to realize the self. [The actual meaning of samsaara is sukha-dukha-anubhavam – experience of happiness and unhappiness – and not merely family life and its associated joys and sorrows. Sanyāsis (renunciants) too can be in a state of samsaara (happiness and unhappiness) which we observe in the case of many genuine and fake swamis today].
He said that each life takes its own course and one cannot and must not compare one life with the other; just because he renounced the world does not mean that every spiritual aspirant must do so. He used the technical word prārabdham – pra+ārabdham (that which is started) to describe the difference. Each one of us will have a different prārabdham and hence different kinds of lives and living. All Upanishadic seers are householders. Some have two wives too, such as Yajñavalkya. Brahmacharyam means moving or residing in the (or as) Brahman – and not abstaining from sex or practicing celibacy as is generally believed. This aspect was often stressed by Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Sri Ramana Maharshi believed in and used to say that the practice of spirituality, and living as a house-holder, must go on hand in hand. There is no spiritual life devoid of or dissociated or different from normal family life. Both exist as one, like milk and water; sweetness and honey. Spirituality does not exist separately from family life. Family life must be made spiritual.
Thus Sri Ramana Maharshi lived the life of True Jñāni and left a lot of literature also for our study and use. Persons interested in knowing more about Sri Ramana Maharshi can read the book in English entitled “Ramana Maharshi” by Arthur Osborne (Jaico Publishing Co.) or many other books both in English and regional languages published by Sri Ramana Ashram Publishers, Tiruvannamalai, Tamilnaadu.
Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam