Ramana Maharshi

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Ramana Maharshi
Ramana Maharshi

Sri Ramana Maharshi (December 30, 1879 – April 14, 1950) was a Tamil Hindu, known as a Sage, Jnani, and Jivanmukta who, after a spiritual experience considered Moksha/Mukti (spiritual liberation/enlightenment) at age 16, left Madurai for Tiruvannamalai, and subsequently lived on the nearby sacred mountain Arunachala, in Tamil Nadu, South India. Born Brahmin, after Moksha, he declared himself to be "atiasrami", a state recognized in the Hindu Sastras as one being unattached to anything in life and beyond all restrictions. Sri Ramana consistently maintained that a powerful silence radiating from his presence that quieted the minds of those attuned to this was the purest form of his teachings. "The highest form of grace is silence. It is also the highest upadesa [teaching]," he said. He frequently said that he gave verbal teachings only for the benefit of those who could not understand his silence. When asked for advice, he recommended self-enquiry as the fastest path to Moksha. Sri Ramana's "verbal teachings flowed authoritatively from his direct knowledge that Consciousness was the only existing reality". Though his primary teaching is associated with Non-dualism, Advaita Vedanta, and Jnana yoga, he also highly recommended Bhakti, and gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices , saying: "To each person that way is the best which appears easiest or appeals most. All the ways are equally good as they lead to the same goal, which is the merging of the ego in the Self. What the Bhakta (devotee) calls surrender, the man who does Vichara (self-enquiry) calls Jnana (knowledge). Both are trying only to take the ego back to the source from which it sprang and make it merge there"

Contents

[edit] Life

[edit] Family Background

Sri Ramana was born into a Hindu family, the second of four children of Sundaram Iyer and Azhagammal, and named Venkataraman at birth. He was born in a village called Tiruchuzhi near Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India on the day of Ardra Darshanam. The other siblings were Nagaswamy (1877-1900), Nagasundaram (1886-1953) and sister Alamelu (1891/92-1953). Venkataraman's father was a pleader who died in 1892 at the age of 47, when Venkataraman was twelve, so he moved to his paternal uncle Subbaiyar's house in Madurai, where he attended Scott’s Middle School and the American Mission High School.

[edit] The Awakening

When Venkataraman was about 11, he was sent to live with his uncle in Dindigul so he could attend a school where English was taught. (Sundaram Iyer wanted his sons to be educated in English so they would be eligible to enter government service, and only Tamil was taught at the village school in Tiruchuzhi.) In 1891, when his uncle was transferred to Madurai, Venkataraman (and his older brother Nagaswami) moved with him. In Madurai, Venkataraman attended Scott's Middle School.

In 1892, Venkataraman's father Sundaram Iyer fell seriously ill and died several days later. For some hours after his father's death, Venkataraman contemplated the matter of how his father's body was still there, but the 'I' was gone from it.

After Scott's Middle School, Venkataraman moved on to the American Mission High School. One November morning in 1895 he was on his way to school when he saw an elderly relative and enquired where the relative had come from. The answer was "From Arunachala."

Krishna Bikshu, in Ramana Leela, describes the response in Venkataraman: "The word "Arunachala" was familiar to Venkataraman from his younger days, but he did not know where it was, what it looked like or what it meant. Yet that day that word meant to him something great, an inaccessible, authoritative, absolutely blissful entity. Could one visit such a place? His heart was full of joy. Arunachala meant some sacred land, every particle of which gave moksha. It was omnipotent and peaceful. Could one behold it? "What? Arunachala? Where is it?" asked the lad. The relative was astonished, "Don't you know even this?" and continued, "Haven't you heard of Tiruvannamalai? That is Arunachala." It was as if a balloon was pricked, the boy's heart sank."

About a month or two later, Sri Ramana later reported, he came across a copy of Sekkilar's Periya Puranam, a book that describes the lives of Shaivite saints, and became fascinated by it.

Soon after, in mid-July 1896, at age sixteen, Venkataraman had a life changing experience. As Sri Ramana reported it later: "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 it 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 [that which is heard] note which underlies and blends with all other notes."

It is reported that after this event, he lost interest in school-studies, friends, and relations. Avoiding company, he preferred to sit alone, absorbed in concentration on the Self, and went daily to the Meenakshi Temple, ecstatically devoted to the images of the Gods, tears flowing profusely from his eyes.

Venkataraman’s elder brother, Nagaswamy, was aware of a great change in him and on several occasions rebuked him for his detachment from all that was going on around him. About six weeks after Venkataraman’s absorption into the Self, on the 29th of August, 1896, he was attempting to complete a homework assignment which had been given to him by his English teacher for indifference in his studies. Suddenly Venkataraman tossed aside the book and turned inward in meditation. His elder brother rebuked him again, asking, “What use is all this to one who is like this?” Venkataraman did not answer, but recognized the truth in his brother’s words.

[edit] The Journey

He decided then and there to leave his home and go to Arunachala. Knowing his family would not permit this, he slipped away, telling his brother he needed to attend a special class at school. Fortuitously, his brother asked him to take five rupees and pay his college fees on his way to school. Venkataraman took out an atlas, calculated the cost of his journey, took three rupees and left the remaining two with a note which read: "I have set out in quest of my Father in accordance with his command. This (meaning his person) has only embarked on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore, no one need grieve over this act. And no money need be spent in search of this. Your college fee has not been paid. Herewith rupees two."

At about noon, Venkataraman left his uncle's house and walked to the railway station. Luckily the train was running late or he would have missed it. At about three o'clock the next morning, he got down at Viluppuram. He walked into the town at daybreak. Tired and hungry, he asked for food at a hotel and had to wait until noon for the food to be ready. He then went back to the station and spent his remaining money on a ticket to Mambalappattu, a place on the way to Tiruvannamalai. From there, he set out, intending to walk the remaining distance of about thirty miles.

After walking about eleven miles, he reached the temple of Arayaninallur, outside of which he sat down to rest. When the priest opened the temple for puja, Venkataraman entered and sat in the pillared hall where he had a vision of brilliant light enveloping the entire place. He sat in deep meditation after the light disappeared until the temple priests who needed to lock up the temple roused him. He asked them for food and was refused, though they suggested he might get food at the temple in Kilur where they were headed for service. Venkataraman followed, and late in the evening when the puja ended at this temple, he asked for food and was refused again. The temple drummer who had been watching this exchange implored the priests to give his share to the boy. When he asked for water, he was directed to a Sastri’s house. He set out but fainted and fell down, spilling the rice he had been given in the temple. When he came to he began picking up the scattered rice, not wanting to waste a single grain.

Muthukrishna Bhagavatar was amongst the crowd that gathered around Venkataraman when he collapsed. He was so struck by Venkataraman’s extraordinary beauty and felt such compassion for him that he led the boy to his house and let him stay the night.

The next morning the kind couple fed him well. It was August 31st, the Gokulastami day, the day of Sri Krishna’s birth. Venkataraman asked Bhagavatar for a loan of four rupees on the pledge of his ear-rings so that he could complete his pilgrimage. Bhagavatar agreed and gave Venkataraman a receipt he could use to redeem his ear rings.

Venkataraman continued on his journey, tearing up the receipt immediately because he knew he would never have any need for the ear rings. At the train station he learned there would be no trains until the next day so he slept there.

On the morning of the 1st of September (now observed as Advent Day), 1896, he boarded the train and traveled the remaining distance. In Tiruvannamalai he went straight to the temple of Arunachaleswara. There, Venkataraman found not only the temple gates standing open, but the doors to the inner shrine as well, and not a single person, even a priest, was in the temple. He entered the sanctum sanctorum and addressed Arunachaleswara, saying, “I have come to Thee at Thy behest. Thy will be done.” He embraced the linga in ecstasy. The burning sensation that had started back at Madurai (which he later described as “an inexpressible anguish which I suppressed at the time”) merged in Arunachaleswara. Venkataraman was safely home.

[edit] Early Life at Arunachala

He stayed in different parts of the temple for several months, sitting quietly in meditation. The first few weeks he spent in the thousand-pillared hall but urchins pelted him with stones so he shifted to other spots in the temple and even to the Patala-lingam vault. Undisturbed there, he would spend days absorbed in such deep samadhi that he was unaware of the bites of vermin and pests. Seshadri Swami, a local saint, discovered him in the underground vault and tried to protect him.

After about six weeks in the Patala-lingam, he was carried out and cleaned up. For the next two months he stayed in the Subramanya Shrine, so unaware of his body and surroundings that food had to be placed in his mouth or he would have starved. From there, he was invited to stay in a mango orchard next to Gurumurtam, a temple about a mile out of Tiruvannamalai.

Shortly after his arrival at Gurumurtam a sadhu named Palaniswami first heard of Brahmana Swami, as Sri Ramana was then known, and went to see him. Palaniswami's first darshan left him filled with peace and bliss, and from that time on his sole concern was serving Sri Ramana.

Palaniswami then joined Ramana as his permanent attendant providing him with a lifetime of care and protection. From Gurumurtam to Virupaksha Cave (1899-1916) to Skandasramam Cave (1916-1922) on the holy mountain Arunachala, he was the instrument of divine protection for Ramana. Ramana would be without consciousness of the body and lost in inner bliss most of the time and during those times protection was very valuable. Besides physical protection Palaniswami would beg for alms, cook and prepare meals for himself and Ramana, and care for him as needed.

Gradually, despite Sri Ramana's silence, austerities, and desire for privacy, he attracted attention from visitors, and some became his disciples. Eventually, his family discovered his whereabouts. First his uncle Nelliappa Iyer came and pled with him to return home, promising that the family would not disturb his ascetic life. Sri Ramana sat motionless and eventually his uncle gave up.

Not long after this, Sri Ramana left the mango grove, spent about a month at the nearby Arunagirinathar Temple, and then moved to the temple at Pavalakkunru, one of the eastern spurs of Arunachala. It was here, in December of 1898, that his mother and brother Nagaswami found him. Day after day his mother begged him to return, but no amount of weeping and pleading had any visible effect on him. He remained silent and still, giving no indication that he had heard her. She appealed to the devotees who had gathered around, trying to get them to intervene on her behalf, and one requested that Sri Ramana write out his response to his mother. [10] He then wrote on a piece of paper, "In accordance with the prarabdha of each, the One whose function it is to ordain makes each to act. What will not happen will never happen, whatever effort one may put forth. And what will happen will not fail to happen, however much one may seek to prevent it. This is certain. The part of wisdom therefore is to stay quiet." At this point his mother returned to Madurai with a heavy heart.

Soon after this, in February of 1899, Sri Ramana moved further up Arunachala where he stayed briefly in Satguru Cave and Guhu Namasivaya Cave before taking up residence at Virupaksha Cave for the next 17 years, using Mango Tree cave during the summers (except for a six month period at Pachaiamman Koil during the plague epidemic).

In 1902 a Government official named Sivaprakasam Pillai, with writing slate in hand, visited the young Swami in the hope of obtaining answers to questions about ‘How to know one’s true identity’. The fourteen questions put to the young Swami and his answers were Sri Ramana's first teachings on the method for which he became widely known, Self-Enquiry, eventually published as 'Nan Yar?', or in English, ‘Who am I?’.

Several visitors came to him and many became his disciples. Sri Ganapathi Sastri, a Vedic scholar of repute in his age, came to visit Sri Ramana in 1907; after receiving instructions from him, he proclaimed him as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sri Ramana was known henceforth by this name for the rest of his life. It was in 1911 that the first westerner, Frank Humphreys, then a policeman stationed in India, first discovered him, and then wrote about Sri Ramana articles first published in The International Psychic Gazette in 1913.[15] However, Sri Ramana only became relatively well known in and out of India after 1934 when Paul Brunton, having first visited Sri Ramana in January 1931, published the book A Search in Secret India, which became very popular. Resulting visitors included Paramahansa Yogananda, Somerset Maugham, Mercedes De Acosta, Julian P. Johnson, and Arthur Osborne. Sri Ramana's relative fame spread throughout the 1940s. However, even as his fame spread, Sri Ramana was noted for his belief in the power of silence and relatively sparse use of speech, and a lack of concern for criticism . His lifestyle remained that of a renunciate.

In 1912, while in the company of disciples, he was observed to undergo about a fifteen minute period where he showed the outward symptoms of death, which reportedly resulted thereafter in an enhanced ability to engage in practical affairs whle remaining in 'Sahaja Nirvikalpa Samadhi. In 1916 his mother Alagammal and younger brother Nagasundaram joined Sri Ramana at Tiruvannamalai and followed him when he moved to the larger Skandashram Cave, where Bhagavan lived until the end of 1922. His mother took up the life of a sannyasin, and Sri Ramana began to give her intense, personal instruction, while she took charge of the Ashram kitchen. Ramana's younger brother, Nagasundaram, then became a sannyasin, assuming the name Niranjanananda, becoming known as Chinnaswami (the younger Swami).

During this period, Sri Ramana composed The Five Hymns to Arunachala, his magnum opus in devotional lyric poetry. Of them the first is Akshara Mana Malai (the Marital Garland of Letters). It was composed in Tamil in response to the request of a devotee for a song to be sung while wandering in the town for alms. The Marital Garland tells in glowing symbolism of the love and union between the human soul and God, expressing the attitude of the soul that still aspires.

[edit] Mother's Death

Beginning in 1920, his Mother's health deteriorated. On the day of her death, May 19, 1922, at about 8 a.m., Ramana sat beside her. It is reported that throughout the day, he had his right hand on her heart, on the right side of the chest, and his left hand on her head, until her death around 8:00 p.m., when Ramana pronounced her liberated, literally, ‘Adangi Vittadu, Addakam’ (‘absorbed’).” Later Ramana said of this: “You see, birth experiences are mental. Thinking is also like that, depending on samskaras (tendencies). Mother was made to undergo all her future births in the comparatively short time.” Her body was buried on the banks of Palitirtham, a tank at the foot of the southern slope of Arunachala. The disciples erected a brick samadhi and by some coincidence,a Siva linga from Kasi arrived just then. It was placed atop the samadhi and named, Matrubhuteswara (Mother who was Easwara). Every year to commemorate the anniversary (known as Mother's Aradhana or Mahapooja), pooja is performed at the Matrubhuteswara. Thousands of devotees from various parts of the world assemble to join the observance.

After this Sri Ramana often walked from Skandashram to her tomb. Then in December 1922, he came down from Skandashram permanently and settled at the base of the Hill, where Ramanasramam is still located today. To start with, there was only one hut at the samadhi, but in 1924 two huts, one opposite the samadhi and the other to the north of that got erected.

[edit] The Later Years

And thus began the Sri Ramanasramam, which has now grown to include a library, hospital, post-office and many other facilities. Sri Ramana displayed a natural talent for planning building projects. Annamalai Swami gave detailed accounts of this in his reminiscences. Until 1938, Annamalai Swami was entrusted with the task of supervising the projects and received his instructions from Ramana directly.

The 1940's saw many of Sri Ramana's most ardent devotees passing away. These included Echamma (1945), attendant Madhavaswami (1946), Ramanatha Brahmachari (1946), Mudaliar Granny and Lakshmi (1948). Sri Ramana was noted for his unusual love of animals and his assertion that liberation was possible for animals too. On the morning of June 18, 1948, he realized his favorite cow Lakshmi was near death. Just as he had with his own Mother, Sri Ramana placed his hand on her head and over her heart. The cow died peacefully at 11:30 a.m. and Sri Ramana later declared that the cow was liberated.

Sri Ramana was noted for his belief in the power of silence and relatively sparse use of speech. He led a modest life and as a renunciate depended on visitors and devotees for the barest necessities. However, the popular image of him as a person who spent most of his time doing nothing except silently sitting in samadhi is highly inaccurate, according to David Godman, who has written extensively about Sri Ramana. According to Godman, in later years, Sri Ramana was actually quite active in Ashram activities until his health failed.

It was not long after the 50 year anniversary of his arrival at Arunachala in 1946 that Sri Ramana's health rapidly deteriorated. In November 1948, a tiny cancerous lump the size of a pea was found, and in February 1949 this was removed by the ashram doctor, assisted by another devotee doctor. Soon, another growth appeared, and another operation was done by an eminent surgeon in March, 1949, and Radium was applied. The doctor told Sri Ramana that a complete amputation of the arm to the shoulder was required to save his life, but Sri Ramana refused. A third and fourth operation were performed in August and December of 1949, but only weakened him. Other systems of medicine were then tried; all proved fruitless and were stopped by the end of March when devotees gave up all hope. During all this, Sri Ramana reportedly remained peaceful and unconcerned. As his condition worsened, Sri Ramana remained available for the thousands of visitors who came to see him, even when his attendants urged him to rest. Reportedly, his attitude towards death was serene. To devotees who begged him to cure himself for the sake of his devotees, Sri Ramana is said to have replied “Why are you so attached to this body. Let it go.”, and “Where can I go? I am here.”

By April 1950, Sri Ramana was too weak to go to the hall, and visiting hours were limited to 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. in the morning and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the evening. Visitors would file past the small room where he spent his final days to get one final glimpse. By April 14th, it was evident the end was near. Swami Satyananda, the attendant at the time, reports, “On the evening of 14th April 1950, we were massaging Sri Ramana’s body. At about 5 o’clock, he asked us to help him to set up. Precisely at that moment devotees started chanting ‘Arunachala Siva’, ‘Arunachala Siva’. When Sri Bhagavan heard this his face lit up with radiant joy. Tears began to flow from his eyes and continued to flow for a long time. I was wiping them from time to time. I was also giving him spoonfuls of water boiled with ginger. The doctor wanted to administer artificial respiration but Sri Bhagavan waved it away. Sri Bhagavan’s breathing became gradually slower and slower and at 8:47 p.m. it subsided quietly." At that very moment, in many places all over India, there were independent reports of seeing a bright light rising into the sky.

Reportedly, millions in India mourned his passing. Mercedes De Acosta notes that a long article about his death in the New York Times ended with: "Here in India, where thousands of so-called holy men claim close tune with the infinite, it is said that the most remarkable thing about Ramana Maharshi was that he never claimed anything remarkable for himself, yet became one of the most loved and respected of all."

[edit] Teachings

Sri Ramana's teachings about self-enquiry, the practice he is most widely associated with, have been classified as the Path of Knowledge (Jnana marga) among the Indian schools of thought. Though his teaching is consistent with and generally associated with Hinduism, the Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta, there are some differences with the traditional Advaitic school, and Sri Ramana gave his approval to a variety of paths and practices from various religions [26].

  • His earliest teachings are documented in the book Nan Yar (Who am I), originally written in Tamil (see note at the end of this section about Nan Yar). Given below are selections from the book:
  • Since all the living beings desire to be happy always, without any misery..., it is necessary to know oneself. For that, enquiry in the form 'Who am I' alone is the principal means.
  • Knowledge itself is 'I'. The nature of (this) knowledge is existence-consciousness-bliss
  • 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. 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 sixteen. 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. See self-enquiry for more details on the theory, the practice and misconceptions about the practice.

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) as an adequate alternative, which would ultimately converge in to the path of self-enquiry.

Note about the book Nan Yar (Who am I): There are several versions of this book (originally compiled by Sri M. Sivaprakasam Pillai and published in 1923). However, the essay version of the book prepared by Sri Ramana should be considered definitive as it had the benefit of his revision and review. It is available in the book Sri Ramana Nutrirattu(the Tamil language collected works of Sri Ramana). A careful translation with notes is also available in English in the book, 'The Path of Sri Ramana, Part One' by Sri Sadhu Om (one of the direct disciples of Sri Ramana). The quotes above were culled from the essay version. The version available on the Sri Ramanashramam's Website is the original book by Sri Pillai (it is not the essay version).

[edit] Sri Ramana's teachings and Advaita

Sri Ramana's teachings and the traditional Advaitic school of thought pioneered by Sri Sankaracharya have many things in common. Sri Ramana often mentioned and is known to have encouraged study of the following classical works: Ashtavakra Gita, Ribhu Gita and Essence of Ribhu Gita, Yoga Vasista Sara, Tripura Rahasya, Kaivalya Navaneetam, Advaita Bodha Deepika, and Ellam Ondre. However, there are some differences with the traditional Advaitic school, which recommends a negationist neti, neti (Sanskrit, "not this", "not this") path, or mental affirmations that the Self was the only reality, such as "I am Brahman" or "I am He", while Sri Ramana advocates the enquiry "Nan Yar" (Tamil, "Who am I"). Furthermore, unlike the traditional Advaitic school, Sri Ramana strongly discouraged most who came to him from adopting a renunciate lifestyle.

To elaborate: The traditional Advaitic (non-dualistic) school advocates "elimination of all that is non-self (the five sheaths) until only the Self remains" [34]. The five sheaths that hide the true Self are: Material, Vital, Mental, Knowledge, and Blissful (Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vijnanamaya, and Anandamaya kosas (sheaths) Sri Ramana says "enquiry in the form 'Who am I' alone is the principal means. To make the mind subside, there is no adequate means other than self-enquiry. If controlled by other means, mind will remain as if subsided, but will rise again"

[edit] Teachers in his tradition

Sri Ramana did not publicize himself as being a guru, he never appointed any successors, and he never claimed to have any disciples, either. While a few who came to see him are said to have become enlightened through association with him, he did not publicly acknowledge any living person as liberated other than his mother at death. Sri Ramana declared himself an atiasrama [36](beyond all caste and religious restrictions, not attached to anything in life), and did not belong to any lineage, nor did he ever indicate that he wanted to create to a lineage. He considered his own guru to be the Self, in the form of the sacred mountain Arunachala.

  • His method of teaching was characterized by the following:
  • He consistently urged people who came to him to practice self-enquiry;
  • He directed people to look inward rather than seeking outside themselves for Realization. ("The true Bhagavan resides in your Heart as your true Self. This is who I truly am," he said.)
  • He viewed all who came to him as the Self rather than as lesser beings. ("The jnani sees no one as an ajnani. All are only jnanis in his sight," Sri Ramana said.)
  • He charged no money, and was adamant that no one ever ask for money (or anything else) in his name;
  • He never promoted or called attention to himself. Instead, Sri Ramana remained in one place for 55 years, offering spiritual guidance to anyone of any background who came to him, and asking nothing in return;
  • He considered humility to be the highest quality.
  • He said the deep sense of peace one felt around a jnani was the surest indicator of their spiritual state, that equality towards all was a true sign of liberation, and that what a true jnani did was always for others, not for themselves.

Despite the above and the statement of the Ashram's official magazine that there is no lineage, there are many contemporary gurus/teachers who publicly associate themselves with Sri Ramana and some who assert being in his lineage.

[edit] Notable followers

Over the course of Sri Ramana's lifetime, people from a wide variety of backgrounds, religions, and countries were drawn to him. Some stayed for the rest of their lives (or his) and served him with great devotion, and others came for a single darshan and left, deeply affected by the peace he radiated.

Quite a number of followers wrote books conveying Sri Ramana's teachings. The works of Sri Muruganar (died 1973), such as Guru Vachaka Kovai, were carefully reviewed by Sri Ramana. Sri Sadhu Om (1922-1985) spent five years with Sri Ramana and about 28 years with Sri Muruganar. Suri Nagamma wrote a series of letters to her brother in Telugu, describing Sri Ramana's conversations with devotees over a five year period. Each letter was corrected by Sri Ramana before it was sent.

Paul Brunton's writings about Sri Ramana brought considerable attention to him in the West. Other Westerners who wrote about Sri Ramana include Arthur Osborne (the first editor of the ashram journal, The Mountain Path), Major Chadwick (who ran the Veda Patasala during Ramana's time), and S.S. Cohen (died 27-5-1980). More recently, David Godman, a former librarian at the ashram, has written about both Ramana's teaching, as well as a series of books (The Power of the Presence) vividly portraying the lives of a number of lesser-known attendants and devotees of Sri Ramana.

Attendants of Sri Ramana included Palaniswami (from 1897), Kunju Swami (from 1920), Madhava Swami, Krishna Bhikshu and Annamalai Swami (from 1928).

[edit] Books

[edit] Teachings

The Spiritual Teachings of Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 1-59030-139-0) Be as You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 0-14-019062-7) Guru Vachaka Kovai (Garland of Guru's Sayings) by Sri Muruganar, translation Sri Sadhu Om The Collected Works Of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Contains compositions by Sri Ramana, as well as a large number of adaptations and translations by him of classical advaita works (ISBN 81-88018-06-6) The Path of Sri Ramana Part I,II and III : Sri Sadhu Om (ASIN B000KMKFX0) The Essential Teachings of Ramana Maharshi: A Visual Journey (ISBN 1-878019-18-X) Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, by Munagal Venkataramiah, covers the period 1935 to 1939 (ISBN 81-88018-07-4) PDF Reflections: On Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, by S.S.Cohen (ISBN 81-88018-38-4) PDF Padamalai: Teachings of Ramana Maharshi Recorded by Sri Muruganar, edited by David Godman (ISBN 0971137137) Sri Ramana Gita (ISBN 81-88018-17-1) The Teachings of Ramana Maharshi in his own words, by Arthur Osborne (ISBN 81-88018-15-5) PDF Day by Day with Bhagavan by A Devaraja Mudaliar (ISBN 81-88018-82-1). An account of daily discussions during the period 1945 to 1947. Gems from Bhagavan, by A. Devaraja Mudaliar Maha Yoga, by 'Who' (Lakshmana Sharma), Rev 2002 (ISBN 81-88018-20-1), PDF version online Ramana Puranam: Composed by Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Muruganar (ISBN 81-8289-059-9)

[edit] Biographies

  • Self-Realization: The Life and Teachings of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, by B.V Narasimha Swami (ISBN 81-88225-74-6)
  • Sri Ramana Leela, by Krishna Bhikshu (Telegu Original) PDF version online
  • Timeless in Time: Sri Ramana Maharshi, A Biography (ISBN 81-85378-82-7)
  • Ramana Maharshi : His Life : Gabriele Ebert (ISBN-13 978-1411673502)

[edit] Reminiscences

  • A Sadhu's Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi, by Major A.W. Chadwick (ISBN 81-88018-37-6)
  • Living By The Words of Bhagavan, by David Godman (no ISBN) about Annamalai Swami
  • Power of the Presence, volume 1, by David Godman (ISBN 0-9711371-1-0), about several devotees
  • Power of the Presence, volume 2, by David Godman (ISBN 0-9711371-1-2), about several devotees
  • Power of the Presence, volume 3, by David Godman (ISBN 0-9711371-2-9), about several devotees
  • Letters from Sri Ramanasramam, by Suri Nagamma (ISBN 81-88018-10-4), contains 273 letters from the period 1945 to 1950, each one corrected by Sri Ramana.
  • Timeless in Time: Sri Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 1-933316-15-2)
  • A Practical Guide to Know Yourself: Conversations with Sri Ramana Maharshi (ISBN 81-85378-09-6)
  • Talks With Ramana Maharshi: On Realizing Abiding Peace and Happiness (ISBN 1-878019-00-7)
  • Guru Ramana, by S.S.Cohen (ISBN 81-88225-22-3)
  • Moments Remembered, Reminiscences of Bhagavan Ramana, by V. Ganesan (ISBN 978-8188018437)
  • Living with the Master, Reminiscences by Kunjuswami (ISBN 81-88018-99-6)

[edit] For Children

  • Sri Ramana, Friend of Animals: Hobbler and the Monkeys of Arunachala ISBN 81-8288-047-5
  • Sri Ramana, Friend of Animals: The Life of Lakshmi the Cow
  • Ramana Thatha (Grand Father Ramana), by Kumari Sarada ISBN 81-85378-03-7
  • Ramana Maharshi (Amar Chitra Katha: The Glorious Heritage of India series) ISBN 81-7508-048-5




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