Birth of a legend – Ramana Maharshi
This nation has seen innumerable spiritual masters right from the time of Vedas to the present day. The way they lived their lives may vary based on how they wanted to spread the spiritual awareness that they experienced.
Some of them lived in the forest performing severe tapas (meditation on gods) and helped the people who came to them to attain the same status as they were in. The second type of people were those who lived with the masses, dedicated their lives for the people who they lived with, providing solutions to those who go to them. They, in reality, contribute to society both in terms of spirituality and service.
Ramana Maharshi was of the second type. Though he was an extremely capable spiritual being, he always used to be with the common man, in the service of their problems.
To get a live glimpse of how he walked, articulated, mingled with people, and was involved in the service of others, please watch the below video.
There lived a couple in a small village that is around 50 km from Madurai called Sundaram Iyer and Alagammal. They were both god fearing, kind and were an ideal couple. On the 30th of December in 1879, Alagammal gave birth to their third child and named him Venkataramana.
Venkataramana and his sleep
Venkataramana in his childhood days was no extraordinary or remarkable. He was just like any other ordinary child, who liked to play, play and play. He had one more predominant quality that most of us lack. Sleep. Yes, he was very lazy and had no interest to go to school. Because of this laziness that Venkatararamana possessed, it was really hard for her mother to send him to school every day.
Unfortunately for him, his father Sundaram Iyer, expired when Venkataramana was just twelve years of age. After this Alagammal had to leave the village with her three children, to Madurai, where the brother of Sundaram Iyer lived. This is where he started going to Mission High School where he continued his education.
His deep slumber was so intense that he would not get awakened by anything. This was in spite of his friends beating Venkataramana or even carrying him and putting him in some other place. These incidents provoked his friends to name him as Kumbhakarna, the brother of Ravana who slept soundly for months together. Along with this Venkataramana was also known for his strength, that his classmates were careful about
Arunachala, the place Venkataramana liked on an impulse
All this while, there was no clue of him in becoming a saint. He was still like any other ordinary child who would go to school (only when pushed), be lazy, play a lot. The only additional thing that he did was being healthy and strong. As everyone knows that every second in life is a miracle, he following the sainthood was a miracle too.
When he was at the age of sixteen, a guest came to the house of his father’s brother, where he currently lived. This was the turning point of his life. When Venkataramana asked him where he was from, he got an answer “From Arunachala”. The word Arunachala attracted Venkataramana so much that his curiosity knew no bounds. He went on to ask the guest questions after questions about the whereabouts of Arunachala.
The answers further attracted the boy towards Arunachala when he decides that he should visit Arunachala once. This is because of what he had read in his earlier days, one of the poems of Kulothunga’s Periya Puranam. These set of poems that were related to the Shaiva Saints had left a deep impression in his mind. The impact was so much that it had strange effects on the boy’s mind and body. He yearned to become one among them. From the very same day, he commenced silent meditation on god.
Venkataramana to Ramana Maharshi – The death experience
In the year 1896, when he was of the age of seventeen, he was on the first floor of his uncle’s house. As usual, he was experiencing meditation in a mood of deep thought. As I mentioned earlier, his condition of health was good. Even with this, he was seized by the fear of death all of a sudden. It was as if he was almost dying.
He tried to suppress this feeling from further weakening it, but it went in vain. As he was thinking to himself as to what death was, that seemed like something that was approaching him. Soon his mind was full of nothing. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes and mouth only to lay down like a dead log and began to ponder.
This was the most crucial time of Venkataramana, as his mind was full of thoughts about what would happen to his body? And if his body is cremated where will he go. Out of all these thoughts, one thing was clear to Venkataraman that he is different from his body.
This was due to the fact that, even though his body was lying there motionless, he still remembered his name. He remembered his parents, uncles, brothers, friends and every other person he knew.
Usually, God-realization is a very long process and that it is a fruit of performing tapas for years to come. But in his case, the realization came to Venkataramana like a flash. With this realization, the fear of death that was pondering him left immediately and Venkataramana became Ramana Maharshi.
The above incident impacted his life in big time. Nothing other than deep meditation and solitude interested him. His school, his friends, his relatives, everything seemed unimportant to him. His only dream was to visit Arunachala. He always used to seek a lonely place to continue his meditation and was often getting troublesome for his mother to find him, get him even to have food. His interests in god and saints grew deeper, only to be observed by his brother.
Ramana Maharshi leaves home
In his school, when he was attending an English class, when he did not answer his teacher’s question. The angry teacher asked him to write a grammar part of English thrice. He wrote it twice when he realized that none of what he was doing made any sense to him and entered into meditation right in the classroom before everyone. The teacher sat dumbfounded.
With Arunachalam still lingering in his mind, he finally resolved to go there without informing the elders at home. He was sure that the elders would never let him go. So, the only way that struck him was to flee away from home without informing anyone.
When he was wondering a way out to escape from the worldly way of living, he checked the map eagerly to find that he needed three rupees to reach the place. It is very evident from this incident that when you have made up your mind, god shows the path. His mother had given five rupees to his brother for his brother’s college fees, which his brother gave him and asked him to pay on his behalf.
Informing everyone that he had a special class, he left home after writing a letter addressing it to his brother, as follows:
“I have left to seek ‘lather’. Nobody needs to worry about me. No money needs to be spent to search for me; no one should try to find me. I have not paid your college fees. I have taken three rupees out of the college fees, and the balance two rupees is right here with this note.”
Soon, he reached the nearest railway station where the train to the destination arrived a little later, to his luck. Had the train arrived on time, he would not have had a chance to travel that day. The ticket cost him two rupees and thirteen annas, still leaving three annas with him.
Ramana Maharshi’s lonely journey
With the little money he had, he bravely boarded the train. Since there was no reservation then, he sat in a lonely corner, not wanting to speak to anyone. But a Maulvi Sahab struck a conversation, informing him that the train is set to go up to Tiruvannamalai, though he had the tickets to Tiruvannamalai with him, this information was of no use to him.
On the way, he bought some fruits for half an anna as he felt hungry and ate them. Till the next morning when he reached Villupuram station, he did not have anything to eat. He had decided that he would walk it up to Tiruvannamalai from there. This time he had to enter a hotel and ask the owner if the food was ready. His long wait finally proved fruitful.
After having food, he gave the owner the money he owed, which was two annas. On asking him how much he had, he revealed that he had two and a half annas. Feeling sorry for him, the owner did not accept the money. Further, he listened to the boy’s tale and suggested that he better reach Tiruvannamalai by train.
Though this information of the owner was pretty useful, it was painful too, as he had to go back to the railway station and purchase tickets. While purchasing, he realized that with the money he had he could only go till Mambalapattu station. He boarded the train got down at Mambalapattu. Without any money, the only option he had was to walk until he reached the destination.
He walked for around fifteen km to reach a village called Arayaninallur. After finding a Shiva temple in the town he enters the temple and starts meditating. He had a vision of divine illumination at that very place. While he was meditating, the priest of the place observed him in deep meditation. The priest had to wake him up as he had to lock the door and go to the next temple which was around 7 km from that place.
Ramana Maharshi followed him till that temple and sat for meditation again. After a while, the priest was again done with his duties. So, he had to disturb him again. This time he took him to a Shastriji’s place, in the village.
He fell unconscious as soon as he reached the Shastriji’s house. Once he regained his consciousness, he had to see a lot of people who had gathered to have a glimpse of him out of curiosity. He was given some water and he felt revived. Shastriji served him food, after eating which, he dozed off.
When he got up the next morning, it was Krishna Janmashtami. He was very eager to continue his journey without money. While walking, he was very tired. So he stopped in front of a house. The name of the owner of the house was Krishna Bhagavatar. His hunger made him ask for some food. Since the lady of the house was kind enough, she felt it as a privilege to serve a sanyasi on a Krishnashtami day. After his feast of the day, he had to continue his journey.
In need of money and realizing that Bhagavathar was a pawnbroker, he pledged his earrings asking him for money. After examining the rings, the pawnbroker calculated the worth of the ring which was twenty rupees. So, the pawnbroker offered him four rupees, with his address written on a piece of paper. He further told him at any point in time he was welcome to collect his earrings. Before leaving, the mistress of the house gave him some sweets too.
After leaving home, while continuing his journey, he tore the papers that the pawnbroker had given him, as he had no thoughts of having the rings back.
Ramana Maharshi to Arunachalam
After a long journey that day, he finally reached his dreamland, the very next day. His joy knew no bounds. His immediate place to visit was obviously the Arunachaleshwara temple. The doors of the temple were widely opened. It seemed like it was open just for him, as there was no one else in the temple. He stood before God with all happiness, joy, and blissfulness.
Finally, the ship reached the port. It was such a tiresome and full of hardship for him that Ramana Maharshi finally made it to the place. He became a monk and threw the money he had into the nearby pond along with the sweets that he had collected from the pawnbroker’s wife.
Now that he had all the time for himself, he slowly settled down in the temple, only to realize that some naughty boys were throwing stones at him when he sat down for meditation. So he decided to change the place, found an underground cellar, which was called Pathalalinga. After a few days of peaceful meditation, the boys found him there too.
This is when an aged Sanyasin called Seshadri came into the picture. Though some people thought about him as a mad man, he not only saw to it that nobody disturbed Ramana Maharshi, but also arranged food for him on a regular basis.
This help of Sri Seshadri helped Ramana Maharshi to get involved in deep meditation. Soon, the meditation of Ramana attracted a lot of people who started gathering around Ramana. They took it as their responsibility to look after him. Ramana never used to speak to anyone, not that he had taken a vow, just that he was in no desire to speak to anyone. He only spoke what was absolutely necessary.
Ramana Maharshi’s enlightenment experience
After six months, a gentleman, Thambi Rangaswamy by name, invited Ramanamaharshi, the young Sanyasin to his house. He had made all arrangements for his peaceful meditation. It was here that Ramana Maharshi went into deep undisturbed meditation. As an outcome of his deep thoughts, new knowledge dawned upon him.
This was like an answer to many of his questions that had troubled his mind like:
- What is God?
- What does man mean by Soul?
- What is the relation between Atman and Paramatman?
- What happens to Atman after the death of the body?
- Is the Atman also a subject to death as the body is?
- Is the Atman immortal?
After he found answers to all these questions he arose from the Samadhi (trance of contemplation). This acquired knowledge helped him to solve people’s problems patiently and to relieve their suffering. Since then there was no looking back. His fame spread far and wide.
Pilgrims who visited the temple made it a point to pay Ramana Maharshi a homage, without fail. The number of people visiting him grew. He resolved to stay under a mango tree that was in Thambi Rangaswami’s residence.
Ramana Maharshi’s meeting with mother
After a long time, one of Ramana Maharshi’s uncles came to know about his nephew becoming a Sanyasi. After getting instructions from his mother to his uncle to get his son back home, his uncle arrived at Arunachalam only to know that all his efforts to convince him to get back home went in vain. He returned home disappointed and informed the fact to Alagammal.
To get him back somehow, Alagammal herself went to Tiruvannamalai with her eldest son. Ramana Maharshi obviously recognized his mother but did not speak a word to her. His mother cried profusely, but still, not a single word came out from the mouth of Ramana Maharshi. One of the pilgrims who was observing what was happening felt pity for the mother and requested on behalf of the mother to write down what was going on in his mind.
For this Ramana Maharshi agreed and wrote in a piece of paper as follows:
Everyone has to work according to the Prarabdha Karma (the result of an action done in past life carried to the present). This will not change no matter what has to happen will happen and what should not happen whatever one tries will not happen. Therefore, Alagammal had to return back home in vain after reading the piece of paper.
Ramana Maharshi meets Ganapati Muni
Due to more and more people visiting the mango grove, he had to abandon that place. He returned to Mount Arunachala and settled for meditation in the Virupaksha temple. There was an increase in the stream of visitors even there. People from different walks of life had a different set of problems. Some of them came for peace, some to get their problems solved and few to gain knowledge about Atman and Paramatman.
One lady called Etchammal had come in search of peace after she lost both her husband and children at a very young age. Someone had asked her to visit Maharshi. The visit was very fulfilling and she finally found peace of mind. Till then Ramana was not very keen on having food or taking rest. Etchammal took upon the responsibility to serve food to the Maharshi punctually.
In 1907 it was an attraction for a great Sanskrit scholar named Ganapathi Shastry who was popularly known as Ganapathi Muni. When he came to meet Ramana, Ramana was gazing at the scorching sun in the afternoon till the sunset, which was his habit. Ganapati Muni stayed with Maharshi for a long time asking many questions that he wanted answers for. Many of his questions were answered.
One of his main questions was related to Tapasya. Ramana easily explained his view about Tapasya, and this cleared Ganapati Muni’s confusion. It was Ganapathi Muni that gave him the two names:
In addition to that, he also wrote a Sanskrit book in praise of Ramana Maharshi with the title “Ramana Gita”, explaining his teachings.
Ramana Maharshi’s reunite with mother
After Alagammal lost her eldest son she came to Tiruvannamalai with his younger brother Nagasundaram. Soon, she fell ill and was diagnosed with typhoid. In this duration, Ramana Maharshi set aside his regular meditation and became busy in taking care of her mother. He also wrote a lot of hymns to Arunachaleshwara and prayed for her quick recovery. One of his hymns read “Oh Lord, it is your duty to save my mother who had steadfast faith in you”.
After regaining her health both his mother and brother Nagasundaram settled down in Tiruvannamalai. She took charge of the kitchen. His brother Nagasundaram was initiated to Sanyasa and was given the name of Niranjanananda. The inmates of the Ashram called him “Chinna Swamy”. His mother passed away in May 1922.
Ramanasharam – Ramana Maharshi and disciples
With the result of the devoted efforts of the disciples of Ramana Maharshi, an Ashram was erected on top of the Mount and was named Ramanashram. Niranjanananda also won the affection of all the ashramites. Meanwhile, people started pouring in from different parts of the country, even from abroad.
A person by name F H Humphry was his first disciple from abroad. He was posted there from the police department at Vellore in Madras state. Since he was keen to study the principles of Sanatana Dharma, he was redirected by Ganapati Muni to meet Ramana Maharshi. In his talks, he has clarified all the queries he had and attained peace of mind.
His contribution to articles in English to the International Psychic Gazette about his experience with Ramana Maharshi and the Ramanashram helped spread the fame of the Maharshi. Ramana Maharshi’s fame soon spread all over the world.
One of the extracts from what he wrote in the Gazette was the following.
“A smile of Ramana Maharshi is exceedingly beautiful. No one can imagine anything more beautiful than that, it is a sweet and joyous experience to be in his presence for a while”.
Ramanashram changed thieves lives
As more and more people flocked into the ashram of Ramana Maharshi, there were even people coming in with no good intentions too. Similarly, in 1924, a gang of thieves entered the premises to loot valuable things from the ashram. They even thrashed Maharshi. Unfortunate for them, they got caught by the real devotees.
When they were handed over to Ramana Maharshi, he asked them to leave the thieves and not punish them. Instead, he replied as follows:
The snake bites, scorpion stings, and the bull buffs. Are we right in crushing them because they do so? It is just that we should try to keep away from such people. Then he turned to the thief and asked him if he was satisfied with his punch or does he want to punch one more time.
For this gesture of Ramana Maharshi, there were tears of repentance on the eyes of the thieves. This was a lesson for the thieves more than anyone else.
He was a true follower of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, meaning the earth as one family. Earth for such people just does not include humans, it includes birds, animals, insects, plants or any other object for that matter.
These were the foundations that Ramana Maharshi laid to bring back the spirituality in the world and establish peace.
Last days of Ramana Maharshi
In 1947, Ramana Maharshi’s health began to deteriorate. It was essential for him to take nutritious food to get back to normalcy. But Ramana Maharshi was clear in his stands that he will consume what is served for everyone else. He is not special in the ashram. As his condition grew worse, a small tumor was found in his left forehand. It was declared as sarcoma, a disease for which the only cure is to operate it and remove it.
But a doctor from Madras came to check, told that the hand to be amputated. Ramana Maharshi responded with a clear no and let the hand die naturally. The tumor grew bigger and bigger and people from all parts of the world came to the Ashram to have a last glimpse of the Maharshi.
They were all saddened by looking at Maharshi. Maharshi consoled them and said that everybody that is born must die one day. Ramana Maharshi breathed his last at two o’clock on the night of April 24, 1950.
Ramana Maharshi’s Quotes in PDF
There are a lot many quotes from the much revered Ramana Maharshi. The one called the ‘Gems from Bhagavan’ is a small book to start with and try to understand the best from different categories that Ramana Maharshi had spoken about. This book comes in handy to start understanding the so-called complex topics that have been answered really well by Ramana Maharshi, which in turn have been translated effectively by A Devaraja Mudaliyar.
Please follow the below link to download the book.
Ramana Maharshi – “Who am I” in the form of a PDF
In the year 1902, a set of questions was asked by a person known as Sivaprakasam Pillai. He was a graduate in Philosophy who was employed in the revenue department of the south Arcot collectorate.
During an official visit to Tiruvannamalai, he went all the way to the hill to meet Ramana Maharshi to ask questions on self-inquiry. Ramana Maharshi, as told in the earlier sections was not talking to anyone back then. The restriction was not his vow, but just that he did not feel the necessity of doing so. So, instead, he had penned the answers for all the questions Mr. Pillai had asked him.
This, eventually, in 1923, gave birth to the first publication by Mr. Pillai himself along with a set of poems that he had composed, that saved him in many ways in his life after meeting Ramana Maharshi. After this, numerous publications have come forward and have published in their own styles, some like questions and answers, and others without questions.
The book mainly talks about the questions that arise in the mind as thoughts. These thoughts get ultimately centralized to “I”. This is the beginning of the thoughts in action that eventually erase the “I” from us leaving behind the liberal soul.
You can get a better picture by following the below link: