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Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi is one of the most loved and revered saint in the world for various reasons. First and foremost reason was that Sri Ramana Maharshi was a Jnani (enlightened soul ), who directly experienced and abided in “THE SELF”, which Ramana Maharshi considered the Brahman, the very god that resides in every soul of all living being.
The world is filled with teachers and masters of many qualities, but with no direct experience of God (the self) or the truth. On the other hand, Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi was a Jnani (enlightened soul) who explained about god and the spiritual truth through his direct experience with God (The self).The death experience of Ramana Maharshi at the age of 16 made Bhagavan realize that all the conscious activity connected with the body was centered on the “I”. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means the spirit is deathless.
From that moment onward, the “I” or Self focused attention on itself by a powerful fascination. The ego was lost in the flood of Self-awareness and Raman Maharshi was absorbed and abided in the Self unbroken from that time. The body dies but the Spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. That means I am the deathless Spirit.’ It is one of the rarest qualities to have a Guru who is a Jnani and Sri Ramana Maharshi was a Jnani and hence one of the greatest Guru in recent history of the world.
Having attained the unattainable, Sri Ramana Maharshi, the saint of Arunachala is the highest Advaita saint along with Sri Adi Shankara of 700 AD, who explained Advaita Vedanta ( Non Duality, the Vedas and the truth on life, death, god and true spirituality) to the world.
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi is acclaimed by various spiritual teachers, masters, teachers, philosophers across the world as the supreme symbol of Brahman (God himself) who explained and taught about Self-enquiry of “who am I” as the direct path to liberation – enlightenment. The direct path, also called the Jnana path as taught and explained by Ramana Maharshi is to abide in the Self and introspect with oneself by asking “who am I”. Ramana Mahrashi and Adi Shankara are regarded as forms of Lord Shiva himself.
Ramana Maharshi’s fundamental teaching was the quest for the self and seeking the self, the source from where all thoughts arise. He called this the atma-vichara, the enquiry into the atman or Self by introspecting and asking this simple question: “Who (am) I?” He said that this very question “Who am I?” is itself the revelation of Brahman. This method of self-enquiry is the straight, short and direct path to realization. This method of self-enquiry is superior to bhakti (devotion) as well as to yoga.
Self-enquiry is the pursuit of the true Self within the self. The cause of misery is due to the ego that creates ignorance and arrogance in mistaking the body as “I” . One must seek the actor who is behind the acting, the thinker behind the thought, the one who wills behind the act of willing. The enquiry focuses inward, for the Self is found in the “cave of the heart.” This Self remains the same through all our states of consciousness such as waking, sleeping, dreaming, and the fourth state, turiya, which is achieved in the self enquiry.
The goal is to attain the natural state (sahaja samadhi), the deepest, innate truth of our nature. This state is lived with full awareness only when one has experienced the Self. Ramana Maharshi refers to this as the “I-I”. This “I-I” is not ego or individuality. It is a limitless expanse of consciousness. To know the Self we must destroy the ego. When the ego vanishes, reality will shine forth of itself. If we find who we really are, enlightenment will inevitably follow.
This realization of the Self is by “direct experience only.” It is an “Intuitive Knowledge of the Heart.” The Self is self-luminous because it is self-evident and does not depend on an external knowledge to be known. The realization is beyond expression; words can only point to it; one knows samadhi only when one is in samadhi. This experience is contrasted with knowledge that depends on subject and object.
The first and foremost of all thoughts, the primeval thought in the mind of every man, is the thought ‘I’. It is only after the birth of this thought that any other thoughts can arise at all. The sense of ‘I’ pertains to the person, the body and brain. It is only after the ‘I’ thought, has arisen in the mind that the ‘you’ though can appear. If you follow the ‘I’ thought inwardly, back to its source you would discover that the ‘I’, gradually vanishes. Once the “I” though vanishes, he will attain that consciousness which is immortal and he will become truly wise when he has awakened to his true Self, which is the real nature of man
Unless and until a man embarks on this quest of the true Self, the purpose of his birth remains unfulfilled. What is the use of knowing about everything else when you do not know your true self ?
When a man knows his true Self he will realize that his true nature is infinite, divine, eternal. Some people call it the Kingdom of Heaven, others call it the soul and others again Nirvana, and Hindus call it Liberation; you may give it what name you wish. When this happens a man has not really lost himself; rather he has found himself. This was the teaching of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Ramana Maharshi clearly states that the only purpose, duty and responsibility of one’s life is to seek the self and be enlightened. Ramana Maharshi clearly states that in the interior of the Heart-cave the one Supreme Being, Brahman, shines as ‘I-I’, verily the Atman. Entering into the Heart through self-enquiry or by diving within, abide thou in Atmanishta [the state of being firmly established in the Self]. This was Ramana’s Maharshi’s teachings through his direct experience with God. It was Ramana Maharshi who said, ‘God is within you. He is not something apart from you. You alone are God. If you find the source of the mind by asking yourself “Who am I?” you will experience Him in your Heart as the Self.’
Ramana Maharshi was a true Jnani (Enlightened soul).The real Guru looks into your mind and Heart, sees what state you are in, and gives out advice that is always appropriate and relevant. Other people, who are not established in the Self, can only give out advice that is based on either their own limited experience or on what they have heard or read. This advice is often stupid.
Ramana Maharshi showered his love and grace not only to human devotees, but would also equally share his love even to animals, birds and insects. The Bhagavan has a special and spiritual relationship with Laksmi the ashram’s divine cow and used to talk to her and to all the animals that used to come to see Ramana Maharshi. The Bhagavan even used to settle quarrels between the animals.
There is a famous incident of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi warning and advising a cobra to leave the place where a peacock used to follow Ramana Maharshi and similarly many devotes were witness to a peacock and snake play together near skandhashram with the Bhagavan sitting near them. Such was the power of Ramana Maharshi.
During the times of Ramana Maharshi, tigers and leopards used to roam around the ashram. The Bhagavan used to go out to see them in the night and talk to them to go back into the forests. Once a few devotes reported to Ramana Maharshi that a leopard had come towards them while they were chanting vedas and doing pradakshina around Arunachala hill. Bhagavan replied that the leopard was a saint and had come down from the hill to listen to their songs and it was unnecessary to have scared the leopard away.
There are many incidents of Tigers coming to Pachiamman temple when Ramana Maharshi used to stay there. Though the devotes were frightened, Ramana Maharshi always laughed and was calm. Everything happening around Ramana Maharshi was all divine and many yogis, sages and siddhi’s used to visit Ramana Maharashi in various forms.
There is a famous incident of a golden colored Mongoose coming to see Ramana Mahrashi when he used to stay at Skandashram. The devotees wanted to capture it and keep it as a pet. Ramana Maharshi spoke to his devotee Mastan, saying, “Whom do you think he was? Do you think you could have captured him and could have domesticated him? This was a sage of Arunachala who took on this form to come and visit me. He wanted to pay his respects to me. How many times have I told you that sages come to see me in various forms?”
Sri Ramana Mahrashi’s kindness extended to everyone. He used to treat wounded birds and help them fly again. Monkeys and squirrels would run to Bhagavan to get food from his hands and Ramana Maharshi would never disappoint them. He always spoke t them kindly and jokingly. They always understood the language of Ramana Maharshi.
Once a deer, wounded by wild animals came running to Ramana Maharshi. Ramana sat near it and touched its tearful face and the deer turned peaceful. Bhagavan offered Samadhi to the Deer and the deer was liberated and buried next to the Samadhi of Lakshmi the cow. Ramana Maharshi loved all living souls alike. Snakes, scorpions, insects and mosquitoes were never allowed to be killed. Ramana Maharahi treated all equally with respect and love as god existed in every soul. The Bhagavan would never allow any dog to be chased away from the ashram and asked them to be fed along with humans.
Sri Ramana Maharshi would not even allow trees and plants to be cut and hurt, saying that they too feel pain and suffer. Such was Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi’s love and sympathy for every life.
Ramana Maharshi proved that even animals could be liberated in life by a Jnani ( Enlightened soul). Ramana Maharshi gave moskha ( liberation) to Jackie the dog, Lakshimi the cow, the lame monkey, the deer and even a crow. All these soul’s samadhi’s are next to each other in Ramana Ashram.
Moraji Desai, India’s former Prime Minister visited Sri Ramana Maharshi in August 1935. In his own words,he explains about his experience with Ramana Maharshi -“While I sat there, no questions arose in my mind, nor did I feel any desire to ask anything. I was at complete peace with myself. It was this experience which convinced me that Ramana Maharshi had realized God or Truth.The Maharshi seemed to know everything. He knew the language of the animals. He listened to their complaints. He treated every being in the same way, whether it was a cow or a dog, a crow or a monkey. All were equal in his eyes, the beggar and the millionaire.
He never went out of Tiruvannamalai. He refused to go out and preach. He said, “If I am a jnani, I consider everybody else a jnani too”. What is there to give? He regarded everybody as himself. He made no attempt to convert anybody. Everyone got transformed by his very presence. All learning should come from within. He did not criticize any other way of life. He said, ” Stick to your own religion and follow it properly. Ramana Maharshi taught that one could do sadhana in one’s chosen way and reach the goal. Self-enquiry brings the light of the Self to illumine every path.”
These words of Sri Moraji Desai, former Prime Minister of India clearly explains why Sri Ramana Maharshi is considered and acknowledged as the world’s greatest saint.
Saints, religious leaders of many religions and countries, philosophers, critics, spiritual seekers from all over the world came to meet Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi to clear their doubts on life, death, god and spirituality as they never understood or experienced god directly. Whatever knowledge they had was acquired from books or from their ignorant teachers and elders. Hence, it was Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi who taught them the truth of the purpose of life and the truth of God with his direct experience of god (the self).
It is right to call Ramana Maharshi as Dakshinamurthi, another form of Lord Shiva who taught the devotees in silence. Ramana Maharshi was a pure non-dual essence and his direct and profound teaching was transmitted in silence. To those who had difficult queries in the Vedas and the scriptures Ramana Maharshi explained them with his direct experience of the self, which was his supreme god. Devotees and visitors asked questions and out of his boundless compassion for them, Ramana Maharshi answered them all from his direct experience with the self, the true god that exists in all living beings.
The Scriptures of all religions explain to us about god and the purpose of life but we cannot understand them as we do not have teachers or masters who have had direct experience with God – The supreme self. Hence most humans have to be content with a slow and tedious journey towards the goal. But few are born as adepts in traveling non-stop to the common home of all beings – the supreme Self. When confusions dominate the world, God blesses the world and uplifts mankind by taking the form of an enlightened sage (Jnani) on earth.
Countless people who visited Tiruvannamalai during the life-time of Sri Bhgavan Ramana Maharshi had this divine experience. They saw in Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, as a Jnani (enlightened saint) who did not have the least touch of worldliness, a saint of matchless purity, a witness to the eternal truth of Vedanta. It is not often that a Jnani of the magnitude of Ramana Maharshi visits this earth. But when such a rare event occurs, the entire humanity is benefited and a new era of hope and truth opens before it.
Here are a few examples and experiences of few teachers, masters, saints of various religions, philosophers who visited Ramana Maharshi –
Paramahansa Yoganada, the Kriya yoga guru visited Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai on November 1935. Here is a excerpt of talks with Yogananda and Ramana Maharshi –
Swami Yoganada: How can there be spiritual upliftment of people in mass. What are the instructions to be given them?
Ramana Maharshi: Everyone’s Prarabdha karma and spiritual ripeness of the minds differs. There cannot be any instruction to uplift everyone en masse.
Swami Yoganada: Why does God permit suffering in the world? Should he not with His omnipotence do away with it at one stroke and ordain the universal realization of God?
Ramana Maharshi: Suffering is the way for realization of God.
Swami Yoganada: Should He not ordain differently?
Ramana Maharshi: It is the way
Swami Yoganada: Are yoga, religion etc., antidotes to suffering?
Ramana Maharshi: They help you to overcome suffering.
Swami Yoganada: Why should there be suffering?
Ramana Maharshi: Who suffers? What is suffering?
Swami Yoganada: No answer
Sri Ma Anandamayi
Sri Ma Anandamayi is another great female saint revered all over the world. She arrived in Tiruvannamalai in 1952, (After Ramana Maharshi had left his body to merge with Arunachala) to lay the foundation stone for the construction of the Samādhi of Sri Ramana Maharshi. When the traditional pūrṇa kumbha was offered to her at the entrance of Ramana Ashram, Ma Anandamayi graciously remarked: “Why all this? Do you do all these when a daughter comes to her father’s house?”
Later Ma Anandamayi laid the foundation stone at the Bhagavan’s shrine and handed over brick after brick to lay the foundation. Ma Anandamayi stood solemnly in front of Sri Bhagavan’s Samādhi shrine and remarked “ Here is the sun and we are all the stars in day time” These were the spontaneous words uttered by Ma Anandamayi about Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi.
Sri Narayana Guru
Another great saint, philosopher and social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru came to Meet Ramana Maharshi in 1916. Sree Narayana Guru and his disciples visited the Tiruvannamalai temple and then arrived at the foot of Arunachala mountain by 10 o’ clock in the morning. Sri Narayana Guru suggested that they walk up to the mountain and meet Ramana Maharshi . Hearing this, Maharshi got ready to come down to receive them. But by then, Narayana Guru and his disciples had reached up the mountain. Both the sages faced each other for a moment as if their eyes were speaking to each other. Sri Narayana Guru walked up to a tree shade and started writing. Later towards lunch, Ramana Maharshi himself went to Narayana Guru and invited him for lunch.Sri Narayana guru stopped writing and followed Ramana Maharshi to have lunch. After lunch Narayana guru again started writing.
It was a poem named ‘Nirvruthi Panchakam’ which was composed as a tribute to Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi. Before leaving, Swami Vidyananda, on behalf of Sri Narayana Guru gave this poem as a sacred offering to the Maharshi. The following is the poem and its brief translation in English –
Nirvruthi Panchakam (Five verses on Tranquility)
1) Kim nama desha ka jathih pravrutthi ka kiyad vayah
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (1)
Meaning: What is your name? Where are you from? What is your caste? What is your profession? How old are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.
2) Aagacha gacha magacha pravisha kvanu gachasi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (2)
Meaning: Come! Go! Don’t go! Come in! Where are you going? He who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.
3) Kva yasyasi kada ayata kuta ayasi kosi
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (3)
Meaning: When did you go? When did you come? From where did you come? Who are you? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.
4) Aham tvam soyam antarhi bahir asti na va asti va
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (4)
Meaning: Me or you, that or this person, inside or outside, he who is free from such discussions alone attains tranquility.
5) Jnata ajnata samah sva anya bheda shoonyah kuto bhida
Ityadi vadoparathir yasya tasyaiva nirvruthi. – (5)
Meaning: Equal towards the known and unknown, without discrimination between self and others, then why is this difference? He who is free from such questions alone attains tranquility.
Sri Narayana Guru acknowledged Sri Ramana Maharshi as a Jnani of the highest order.
Sri Lakshmana Swamy
Another Jnani, in the lineage of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi was Sri Bhagavan Lakshmana Swamy, who enlightend himself in the presence Sri Ramana Maharshi on October 1st 1949 at the age of 24. Sri Lakshmana Swamy was a direct disciple of Sri Ramana Maharshi. Sri Lakshmana Swamy lived in Gudur, in Andhra Pradesh and had a temporary experience of the Self while living in Gudur at a very young age.
On his first visit to Ramana Ashram, Sri Lakmanaswamy saw Ramana Maharshi for the first time and that very second Lakshmana Swamy felt the world completely lose its solid and substantial reality. Sri Lakhsmana Swamy has this to say of the experience – “ I became aware that everything I was perceiving in that scene was nothing more than a dream-like projection. This experience gave me the certainty that everything in the world, including the body of Bhagavan that I was concentrating on, was unreal”. Sri Lakmana swamy returned to Gudur, his native place with this new experience and realization.
Sri lakmana swamy returned to Tiruvannamalai after 3 months. He arrived during the Navaratri celebrations of 1949. Sri lakshmana Swamy had this say during his second visit to see Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. “The second day of his visit was Vijayadasami, the final day of the festival. In the afternoon I stood in front of the Mathrubhuteswara Temple, waiting for Bhagavan to appear. He came out of his small room, accompanied by Swami Sathyananda, entered the new hall that was in front of the temple and took his seat on the stone sofa. There were only a few devotees present at the time. He went up to Ramana Maharshi and made a full prostration in front of him. When he stood up, the Bhagavan looked intently at him for a few moments.
Sri Lakshmana swamy then withdrew and went to look for a place where he could do his self-enquiry . He then selected a pillar that was outside the door that Bhagavan had entered through and sat down in front of it. Though he was outside the hall, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi could still see me from where he was sitting. Shortly afterwards Sri Muruganar taking a seat close to Ramana Maharshi. Sri Lakshmana swamy noticed that other devotees were entering the hall and after a few minutes, Sri Muruganar came and sat down next to him. A few other devotees too came and sat near them. At this moment Sri Lakshmana Swamy closed his eyes and began to seek the self by asking “Who am I ?”
What followed next was described by Sri Lakshmana swamy later on. These were the exact words of Sri Lakshmana Swamy himself – “Within a few minutes I found that all thoughts had disappeared except for the primal ‘I’-thought. The question ‘Who am I?’ then spontaneously appeared within me. As it did so, the gracious smiling face of Ramana Maharshi appeared within me on the right side of the chest. There was something like a lightning flash that resulted in a flood of divine light shining both within and without. The Bhagavan’s face was still smiling on the right side of my chest. It seemed to be lit up with a radiance that exceeded innumerable lightning flashes rolled into one. The bliss and joy these experiences gave me brought tears to my eyes. A torrential flow welled up within me and rolled down my face. I was unable to control them in any way. Finally, the ‘I’-thought went back to its source, the internal picture of Ramana Maharshi disappeared, and the Self absorbed my whole being. From that moment on the Self shone alone and the ‘I’-thought, the individual self, never arose or functioned in me again. It was permanently destroyed through the grace of my Guru in his holy presence”.
Sri Bhgavan Lakshmana Swamy remained absorbed in the Self, without body consciousness, for about three hours. The experience was so intense that when he opened my eyes, he was incapable of either speaking or moving. The realization had caused an immense churning within the nervous system, so much so that when body consciousness returned, he felt very weak.
Finally when Lakshmana Swamy was able to register what was going on around him, he noticed that everything was perfectly normal. Ramana Maharshi was still sitting on his couch and all the assembled devotees were pursuing their normal duties and activities. Sri Laksmana Swamy remained where he was for another three hours because he was incapable of any kind of movement due to the enlightenment process that he experienced in the presence of Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi and Lakshmana Swamy was too absorbed in the Self to contemplate either eating or joining in the Vijayadasami celebrations happening at Ramana Ashram. At 9 p.m, he was finally able to rise to his feet and slowly walked back to his allotted place in the mens’ dormitory.
The following morning, Sri Lakshmana Swamy still felt very weak and started to walk towards Tiruvannamalai town to eat a meal at one of the hotels there, so that the body could be a little stronger. Unfortunately he had an attack of dizziness and collapsed on the street. A friendly passer-by helped and guided Sri Lakshmana Swamy to a small restaurant near the temple. After eating, he felt much stronger and returned to Ramana Ashram.
Later that afternoon, Sri Lakshmana Swamy went to see Sri Ramana Maharshi and prostrated before him, and handed Ramana Maharshi a letter through his assistant Venkataratnam. The letter was written in Telugu and it said, “Bhagavan, in your presence and by the self enquiry of “Who am I?”, I have realized the Self’.
Sri Ramana Maharshi read the letter, looked at Sri Lakshmana Swamy for a moment and then his face lit up in a radiant smile. For some time Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Lakshmana Swamy just looked at each other.
Then Sri Ramana Maharshi, broke the silence by asking Sri Lakshmana Swamy where he had come from. Sri Lakshmana Swamy replied saying “Gudur”
Ramana Maharshi asked Lakshmana Swamy “That is in Nellore District, isn’t it?”
Sri Lakshmana Swamy answered “Yes”
This was the only conversation between Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri Lakshmana Swamy. After briefly speaking to Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Laskshmana Swamy did not speak again for the next thirteen years. Sri Ramana Maharshi told his assistant Venkataratnam to keep Sri Lakshmana Swamy’s letter on a shelf that was behind his sofa. Sri Lakshmana Swamy, now moved from Ramana Ashram to a separate house near the Ashram. One of the first people to visit Sri Lakshmana Swamy in his new house was Sri Ramana Maharshi’s assistant Mr Venkataraman.
Mr Venkataraman said to Sri Lakshmana Swamy, ‘In all the years I have been Bhagavan’s attendant, I have never seen anyone present a letter like this before. I am experienced enough in the ways of Bhagavan to know that the beaming smile Sri Ramana Maharshi immediately gave you was proof that your enlightenment was true and genuine. Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi himself ask me to take care of you and to make sure that all your needs are fulfilled and that you are properly looked after.”
The experience and true story of Sri Lakshmana Swamy’s enlightenment in the presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi is another proof to the sayings of many saints that one needs a living Jnani (enlightened soul) as a Guru to enlighten themself. At a later stage, Sri Sarada Ma ( Arunachala Hrudayam ,Tiruvannamalai), devotee of Sri Lakshmana Swamy enlightened herself in the presence and blessings of Sri Lakshmana Swamy on December 18th 1978 at the age of 20. They are the only unbroken line of realization that survived from Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. This clearly states the truth of Ramana Maharshi’s saying the one needs a true guru who is a Jnani (enlightened saint) to help enlighten themselves.
Here is a experience of Swami Ramdas, with Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi . One day, Ramdas went for a darshan of Sri Ramana Maharshi and addressed him : “Maharaj, here stands before thee a humble slave. Have pity on him. His only prayer to thee is that you give him thy blessings.” Hearing this, Sri Ramana Maharshi turned his beautiful eyes towards Ramdas and looked intently for a few minutes into his eyes. Then he shook his head as if to say he has been blessed. A thrill of inexpressible joy coursed through the frame of Ramdas and his whole body was quivering like a leaf in the breeze. He felt thrills of ecstasy in his presence. Ramana Maharshi made the awakening permanent in Swami Ramdas.
Such was the power of Ramana Maharshi and anyone who would go with an open heart, full of purity and love would be blessed and awakened by Ramana Mahrashi.
Another great teacher who experienced the truth of the self with the blessings of Ramana Maharshi was Papaji ( Poonja). Papaji came to Tiruvannamalai in 1944 to meet Ramana Maharshi to ask Bhagavan to show the read god to him, as no other saint or master could show or explain about god to papaji. Papaji at that time have little or no trust in Ramana Maharshi.
In the first meeting Papaji asked Ramana Maharshi – ‘Have you seen God?’ ‘And if you have, can you show god to me? I am willing to pay any price, even my life, but your part of the bargain is that you must show me God.’
Ramana Maharshi replied – “No” I cannot show you God because God is not an object that can be seen. God is the subject. He is the seer. Don’t concern yourself with objects that can be seen. Find out who the seer is.’ He also added, ‘You alone are God,’ Stop looking for a God who was outside and apart from you.
However, Papaji was not satisfied with the answer of Ramana Maharshi as Papaji yearned to see god in a physical form. Papaji stayed in Adi Annamalai, a small village that was on the other side of Hill and Papaji continued having visions of Krishna appear to him and play with him.
Before leaving Tiruvannamalai, Papaji visited Ramana Mahrashi again and proudly said that he was playing with Krishna, as Papaji had convinced himself that Ramana Maharshi has never seen Krishna.
Ramana Maharshi replied -‘Oh, is that so?’ ‘Very good, very nice. Do you see Him now?’
Papaji replied- ‘No, sir, I do not,’ ‘I only see Him when I have visions.’
Ramana Maharshi remarked – “So Krishna comes and plays with you and then He disappears. What is the use of a God who appears and disappears? If He is a real God, he must be with you all the time.”
Papaji was still not convinced and obsessed on the external god. Papaji returned from Tiruvannamalai to Chennai and there he immersed himself into prayers and japa, sometimes repeating the Japa 50,000 times a day. He continued having visions of Lord Krishna, Lord Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Hanuman. The gods would come to see him and play with him every day, but as always, they would disappear later. He realized that these visions were not permanent and the gods used to disappear always.
Papaji by now was paying more attention to the words of Ramana Maharshi and developed deep respects for Ramana Maharshi. Papaji returned to Tiruvannamalai to meet Ramana Maharshi and explain his anguish over the temporary nature of god appearing and disappearing. Papaji sat in front of Ramana Maharshi and told his story.
Papaji explained his frustrations to Ramana Maharshi. “For 25 years I have been repeating the name of Lord Krishna and sometimes I do 50,000 japa a day. Lord Krishna, Ram, Sita, Lakshman and Hanuman appeared before me and then disappear. Now I cannot meditate nor can my mind engage in thoughts of god. What has happened to me and what should I do?”
Ramana Maharshi asked Papaji – “How did you come here from Chennai?”
Papaji replied – “By train.”
Ramana Maharshi now asked – “what happened when you got off the train at Tiruvannamalai?”
Papaji replied –“ I hired a bullock cart to take me to the ashram.”
Ramana Maharshi then asked –“And when you reached the ashram and paid off the driver of the cart, what happened to the cart?”
Pajaji replied – ‘It retuned back to town’
Ramana Maharshi then explained to Papaji –
‘The train and bullock cart had brought you to your destination and they are not needed anymore. They were a vehicle to bring you here. Now there is no use of them.Similarly, Your japa, your reading and your meditation have brought you to your spiritual destination. You don’t need them anymore. You did not give up your practices by yourself. They left you because they had finished serving their purpose of helping you reach your destination. Now you have arrived at your destination.”
Saying this, Sri Ramana Maharshi looked into Papaji’s eyes intensely. In Papaji’s own words, he says “my whole body and mind were being washed with waves of purity. They were being purified by his silent gaze. I could feel him looking intently into my Heart. Under that spellbinding gaze I felt every atom of my body being purified. It was as if a new body was being created for me. A process of transformation was going on – the old body was dying, atom by atom, and a new body was being created in its place. Then, suddenly, I understood. I knew that this man who had spoken to me was, in reality, what I already was, what I had always been. There was a sudden impact of recognition as I became aware of the Self.”
Thus, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi became the Guru to Papaji.
All the shankaracharyas revered Ramana Maharashi and vice versa. Though Ramana Maharshi did not study Advaita Vedanta in a traditional way through book or learned scholar ,Ramana Maharshi directly experienced Advaita Vedanta after being enlightened at the age of 16 through his death experience,where he experienced god directly. Hence Ramana Maharshi was acknowledged as master and exponent of Advaita Vedanta and considered as Dakshinamurthi, the avatar of Shiva himself.
When Ramana was alive, almost all the traditional Advaita leaders commended his attainment, including the Shankaracharya of Puri, Shankaracharya of Sringeri and Shankaracharya of Kanchi. There are written records to prove it. The senior most Sankaracharya then, Swami Sivabhinava Narasimha Bharati of Sringeri, even told some people that Sri Ramana Maharshi did not need to formally wear the sannyasin ocher robes, and nor is Sri Ramana Maharshi required to undertake any sannyasin initiation or baptism. This has been reported both in the Ramanashramam’s magazine, The Mountain Path and in Sringeri mutt’s magazine, Tattvaloka. The very first issue of The Mountain Path carries a benedictory message officially conveyed from the Shankaracharya of Sringeri.
Here are some instances where they showed great mutual respect for one another–
Puri Sankaracharya’s meeting with Sri Ramana Maharshi –
The Sankaracharya of Puri once visited Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi in January 1949 and obtained upadesha (teachings) from Ramana Maharshi. The Shankaracharya arrived at 3.00 pm (15.00) in the presence of Sri Ramana Maharshi. At that time, Sri Ramana Maharshi sat cross-legged in his usual padmasana pose and with his characteristic silence. The Shankaracharya came to Bhagavan and saluted him. Ramana Maharshi nodded his head in a respectful way, accepting the salutations of the Shankaracharya.
The Bhagavan with great regard requested the Shankaracharya by signs to sit on the seat arranged for him. However,the Shankaracharya did not sit on the seat arranged for him. He sat down nearby on a deerskin and began looking at Sri Ramana Maharshi with a fixed stare. Ramana Maharshi too looked at Shankaracharya with an unwavering and compassionate look.
Neither spoke. The audience also kept perfect silence like the still waters of a great lake. For about half an hour, both of them remained absolutely still like that, exemplifying the relationship between devotion and compassion. The Shankaracharya did not ask any questions that day. But before his arrival, the Shankaracharya had written regarding his doubts as to the sentence in the Agama Sastra beginning with “Haragowri Samyoge. Avachhaya Yogah.”
The next day the Shankaracharya asked Sri Ramana Maharshi regarding his doubts as to the sentence in the Agama Sastra beginning with “Haragowri Samyoge. Avachhaya Yogah.”
Sri Ramana Maharshi replied saying- “What is there? It is a well known thing. “Avachhaya Yogam” means, when the force that is engaged in doing things, i.e., mano vritti (action of the mind) becomes pure and merges in Hara (Lord Siva), and when the shadow of the Self (Atma) falls on that force, it is called “Avachhaya Yogam”.” The Shankaracharya said he did not understand it. Now Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi looked at the Shankaracharya intensely and the Shankaracharya ‘s eyes got closed involuntarily.
The Bhagavan continued looking at the Shankaracharya for about half an hour. After experiencing indescribable bliss and with tears of joy and with hands folded on his head, the Shankaracharya said, “Bhagavan, I have now understood it,”
It’s a rare instance (perhaps the only one) where the Jagadguru actually took upadesha instead of giving it ! This speaks volumes of the greatness of the Sage of Arunachala, Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi who was Dakshinamurthi himself in a human form !
The Shankaracharya of Sringeri on Sri Ramana Maharshi –
The January 1997 issue of Tattvaloka, the official magazine of the Sringeri Math, narrates an incident when the then pontiff of Sringeri, H.H. Swami Sivabhinava Narasimha Bharati said: “We study scriptures and commentaries on them. They no doubt clarify one’s understanding and help one spiritually; but they are only secondary. The main thing is one’s spiritual ripeness. One who is already spiritually evolved need not go through the scriptures and commentaries on them. Such a one gets illumined in a flash without these aids. The Bala Yogi of Tiruvannamalai is an instance here.”
As far as anyone knows, none of the living Sankaracharya’s would directly contradict what was said by a guru in their own lineage. One of the few esteemed spiritual personages respected by the Sankaracharya’s has been Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Sri Ramana Maharshi’s Love For All Religions
Sri Ramana Maharshi’s devotees and followers were not only Hindus but also belonged to other religions too. Ramana Maharshi did not distinguish between any religions. Sri Ramana Maharshi treated devotees of all religions equally and respectfully. Ramana Maharshi showered love and sympathy without differentiation, to every living soul that came to seek his blessings.
Masthan Swami was a strict Muslim. Even at the age of eight, he would enter into Samadhi (a state of silence) without knowing what it was. He followed all the Islamic rules and was very much devoted to Allah and Prophet Mohammed. In 1914,Masthan happened to meet Ramana Maharshi. Masthan himself said ,“The Bhagavan looked at me and the gate to my heart opened. I was also established in that state and I stood like that for eight hours, absolutely without fatigue, and filled with total absorption and peace.
After this incident, Masthan had contradictions within himself. Till now Prophet Mohammed was his Guru and Allah was his God. But now Ramana Maharshi had become his living guru. Mastan explained his dilemma to Sri Ramana Maharshi.
Ramana Maharshi looked at Masthan Swami for a few minutes and replied, “Do you take my body to be Bhagavan? Do you think the Prophet is dead? Is Buddha dead? Is Jesus Christ dead? Is Adi Shankara dead? Are they not guiding, millions of people even today? Are they not living in the Heart? A living guru means the one living in one‘s Heart as a guru. A living guru does not mean somebody living in a body at a given historical time, and at a given geographical space.
The guru always lives in your Heart. Heart is Allah, Heart is Mohammad, Heart is Jesus Christ, Heart is Buddha, Heart is Shiva and Heart is Ramana. Live in the Heart as the Heart, by diving into the silent Heart.”
There are so many incidents where Ramana Maharshi encouraged Buddhism, Islam and Christianity as equivalent to each other and true god of all religions are established in the self, deep within our self. The above incident with Masthan proves that Ramana was above all religions and explained true god to everyone with his direct experience with god.
Here is another incident where Ramana Maharshi advised Christian and Catholic devotees to follow teachings of the Christ and seek the true god within their self. In 1938, American poet, playwright, and novelist Mercedes De Acosta met Sri Ramana Maharshi in Arunachala, Tiruvannamalai. She had the divine opportunity to stay at Ramana ashram for three days. She wrote in her autobiography that these three days were the most significant days of her life. The following is her experience with Ramana Maharshi as written by her, in her own words:
“I learned for the first time about Ramana Maharshi, a great Indian saint from a book by Paul Brunton. For days and nights after reading about him I could not think of anything else. I became, as it were, possessed by him. I could not even talk of anything else. Nothing could distract me from the idea that I must go and visit Ramana Maharshi in Tiruvannamalai. From this time on, although I ceased to speak too much about it, the whole direction of my life turned toward India and away from Hollywood.
I had very little money and the risk of going to India alone, but I could not stop myself and booked myself one of the cheapest cabins on an Indian ship, the S. S. Victoria, sailing from Genoa to Bombay (Now Mumbai). From Mumbai I travelled to Madras (Now Chennai)
In Madras I hired a car, and so anxious was I to arrive in Tiruvannamalai that I did not go to bed and traveled by night, arriving about seven o’clock in the morning after driving almost eleven hours. I was very tired as I got out of the car in front of Arunachaleswara Temple. The driver explained he could take me no further. I turned toward the hill of Arunachala and hurried in the hot sun along the dust-covered road to the abode about two miles from town where the Sage lived. As I ran those two miles, deeply within myself I knew that I was running toward the greatest experience of my life.
I entered the ashram and looked around the hall. My gaze was drawn to Bhagavan Ramana Mahrashi, who was sitting absolutely straight in the Buddha posture looking directly in front of him. His eyes did not blink or in any way move. As he sat there he seemed like a statue, and yet something extraordinary emanated from him. I had a feeling that on some invisible level I was receiving spiritual shocks from him, although his gaze was not directed toward me. He did not seem to be looking at anything, and yet I felt he could see and was conscious of the whole world.
I had been sitting several hours in the hall listening to the mantras of the Indians and lost in a sort of inner world. As suggested by a American, I moved near Ramana Maharshi and sat near his feet and facing him. Not long after this, the Bhagavan opened his eyes. He moved his head and looked directly down at me, his eyes looking into mine. It would be impossible to describe this moment and I am not going to attempt it. I can only say that at this second I felt my inner being raised to a new level-as if, suddenly, my state of consciousness was lifted to a much higher degree. Perhaps in this split second I was no longer my human self but the Self. Then Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi smiled at me. It seemed to me that I had never before known what a smile was. I said, “I have come a long way to see you.”
There was silence. I had stupidly brought a piece of paper on which I had written a number of questions I wanted to ask him. I fumbled for it in my pocket, but the questions were already answered by merely being in his presence. There was no need for questions or answers. Nevertheless, my dull intellect expressed one.
“Tell me, whom shall I follow-what shall I follow? I have been trying to find this out for years by seeking in religions, in philosophies, in teachings.” Again there was silence. After a few minutes, which seemed to me a long time, he spoke.
“You are not telling the truth. You are just using words-just talking. You know perfectly well whom to follow. Why do you need me to confirm it?”
“You mean I should follow my inner self?” I asked.
“I don’t know anything about your inner self. You should follow the Self. There is nothing or no one else to follow.”
I asked again, “What about religions, teachers, and gurus?”
Ramana Maharshi replied -“If they can help in the quest of the Self. But can they help? Can religion, which teaches you to look outside yourself, which promises a heaven and a reward outside yourself, can this help you? It is only by diving deep into the spiritual Heart that one can find the Self.” He placed his right hand on his right breast and continued, “Here lays the Heart, the dynamic, spiritual Heart. It is called Hridaya and is located on the right side of the chest and is clearly visible to the inner eye of an adept on the spiritual path. Through meditation you can learn to find the Self in the cave of this Heart.”
The Enlightened saint raised the counsel to a higher level. He said, “Find the Self in the real Heart.”
Many People would say to Bhagavan, “I would like to find God.”
His answer was: “Find the Self first and then you won’t have to worry about God.” once a man said to Sri Ramana Maharshi, “I don’t know whether to be a Catholic or a Buddhist.”
Sri Ramana Maharshi asked him, “What are you now?”
He answered, “I am a Catholic.”
He then said, “Go home and be a good Catholic and then you will know whether you should be a Buddhist or not.”
Ramana Maharshi pointed out to me that the real Self is timeless. “But,” he said, “in spite of ignorance, no man takes seriously the fact of death. He may see death around him, but he still does not believe that he will die. He believes, or rather, feels, in some strange way that death is not for him. Only when the body is threatened does he fall a victim to the fear of death. Every man believes himself to be eternal, and this is actually the truth. This truth asserts itself in spite of man’s ignorant belief that the body is the Self.”
Ramana Maharshi always said, “When you know the Self, the ‘I’ ‘You’ ‘He’ and ‘She’ disappear. They merge together in pure Consciousness.”
There are so many testimonials of people from all over the world about their experience with Sri Ramana Maharshi and one can continue to talk non -stop about the greatness of Ramana Maharshi.This is the greatness of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Mahrashi. Once Ramana Maharshi enters your thoughts and your heart, it becomes difficult for anyone to move away from the truth of the self.
To end this topic about up the greatness of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, we will close this blog with a incident of India’s for Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi’s visit to Ramana Ashram to pay respect to Sri Ramana Maharshi .The Prime Minister was at the Ashram for two hours. She sat in deep meditation for a long while in the old hall. She later visited the samadhi’s of a dog, cow, a deer and a crow who were all nursed and liberated by Sri Ramana Maharshi.
The Prime Minister remained quiet for some time, then said: “ Liberation in life and Samadhi for the bodies are erected only for enlightened humans. But here, Ramana Maharshi had erected a Samadhi for animals and birds. I can even understand the Samadhi for the cow, dog and the deer associated with the ashram, but I am puzzled by the samadhi for a crow. It is now that I am aware of the nature of Sri Ramana Maharshi’s compassion. For him all life was sacred. I have visited many ashrams and meditated there. Here at Ramana Ashram, I had lost hold of the world and myself and was with the eternal silence, peace and quietude”. – These are words quoted by Mrs Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister of India.
Just as the life of Sri Ramana Maharshi was surrounded with divinity, grace and godliness, so was the passing of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi from his body to merge with Arunachala Shiva filled with blessings, divinity and astonishment.
The end came on the 10th of April, 1950 at 8.47 pm (20.47). Many of Ramana Maharshi’s ardent devotees begged him not to leave his body. Ramana Maharshi replied – “where can I go? I am here always. If You Look Within, I Am There.”
Sri Ramana Maharshi have his final darshan to his devotees in the evening and everyone present at Ramana Ashram started singing Ramana’s favourite hymn “Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala Shiva, Arunachala”. Ramana Maharshi asked his attendants to help him sit up. He opened his luminous and gracious eyes for a brief while; there was a smile; a tear of bliss trickled down from the outer corner of his eyes; At 8:47 p.m. the breathing stopped.
There was no struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the peak of Arunachala hill and disappeared behind it. The light that illumined the earth as Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi had now merged with the Eternal Light, the source of all creation.
The French photographer Cartier-Bresson was visiting Ramana’s ashram as Ramana Maharshi’s human life was coming to the end. He noted the following astronomical event which appeared in the night sky over the sacred mountain Arunachala as Ramana died. Cartier-Bresson quotes “I saw a shooting star with a luminous tail unlike any I had ever seen before moving slowly across the sky and reaching the top of Arunachala, the mountain, disappearing behind it. We immediately looked at our watches. It was 8:47. We raced to the ashram only to find that the master had passed in to Mahanirvana at that exact minute.
All the English and Tamil papers which arrived this morning from Madras referred to the meteor which had been seen in the sky all over the entire state of Madras at 8:47 on the night of April 14 by a large number of people in different places.