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Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

A modern father of Yoga

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi

December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950

Sri Ramana Maharshi is widely acknowledged as being one of the outstanding Indian Gurus of modern times. He was born in Tiruchuli (also commonly spelled as Tiruchuzhi), Tamil Nadu (South India) and named Venkataraman Iyer at birth. At the age of sixteen, Venkataraman became suddenly aware that his real nature was imperishable and unrelated to his body, mind, or personality.

Though many people have reported brief experiences of this, in Venkataraman's case it was permanent and irreversible. From that moment on, his sense of being an individual person ceased and never functioned in him again.  A few weeks after his sense of individuality came to an end, he made his way alone to the holy mountain Arunachala (at Tiruvannamalai) where he remained for the rest of his life.

After a few years of living on the slopes of Arunachala, Venkataraman's inner awareness began to manifest as an outer spiritual radiance. This radiance attracted followers though Venkataraman rarely spoke during this period of his life. He radiated a silent power which stilled the minds of those who came to him and occasionally gave them a direct experience of his state. In later years, he became more willing to speak and respond to questions, though he always insisted that the silence he emanated was his purest teaching and that his verbal teachings were only for those who could not understand his silence. His verbal teachings flowed from his direct knowledge that consciousness was the only reality.

Venkataraman was renamed Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi by one of his earliest followers, Ganapati Muni. Bhagavan means God, Sri is an honorific title, Ramana is a short form of Venkataraman, and Maharshi means 'great seer' in Sanskrit. Other followers began to call him this as well, and this was the name he became known by to the world.

As the years passed, Ramana Maharshi became more and more famous and a community grew up around him. He made himself available twenty four hours a day to visitors. Though worshipped by thousands, he never allowed anyone to treat him as special. He refused to accept any gift that could not be shared equally by everyone in the ashram that gradually grew around him. He treated all with equal respect.

In response to questions on self-liberation and the classic texts on Yoga and Vedanta, Ramana recommended self-enquiry as the means to awaken to the "I-I" and the Self. He also recommended Bhakti, and gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices

A prolific writer of many books

His description of the experience that led to his awakening remains an extraordinarily powerful teaching :

It was in 1896, about 6 weeks before I left Madurai for good (to go to Tiruvannamalai - Arunachala) that this great change in my life took place. I was sitting alone in a room on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I seldom had any sickness and on that day there was nothing wrong with my health, but a sudden violent fear of death overtook me. There was nothing in my state of health to account for it nor was there any urge in me to find out whether there was any account for the fear. I just felt I was going to die and began thinking what to do about it. It did not occur to me to consult a doctor or any elders or friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there. The shock of the fear of death drove my mind inwards and I said to myself mentally, without actually framing the words: “Now death has come; what does it mean? What is that is dying? This body dies.”

And at once I dramatised the occurrence of death. I lay with my limbs stretched out still as though rigor mortis has set in, and imitated a corpse so as to give greater reality to the enquiry. I held my breath and kept my lips tightly closed so that no sound could escape, and that neither the word “I” nor any word could be uttered. “Well then,” I said to myself, “this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burn and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the 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 I within me, apart from it. So I am the Spirit transcending the body. The body dies but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit. All this was not dull thought; it flashed through me vividly as living truths which I perceived directly almost without thought process. “I” was something real, the only real thing about my present state, and all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on that “I”. From that moment onwards, the “I” or Self focussed attention on itself by a powerful fascination. Fear of death vanished once and for all. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness. Absorption in the Self continued unbroken from that time. Other thought might come and go like the various notes of music, but the “I” continued like the fundamental sruti note which underlies and blends with all other notes.”

Books by Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.

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