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Ramana Maharshi

Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi

A great soul, he left home in boyhood seeking Knowledge and Peace. Ramana Maharshi was full of compassion for all living beings. He became a kindly light to all who came to him seeking peace of mind.

Author - Shamsa Aithala
Ramana Maharshi

The sacred land of India (Bharat) has given birth to many great men and women. From the time of the Vedas to the present day, many Rishis, Seers and Saints have been born in this country. Some of them, living in the forests, performed severe 'Tapas' (meditation on Gods), sought Truth, and attained Knowledge; they helped the spiritual progress of the world. Some others dedicated their lives to the service of the people and the country; they lived with the people and shared their life. They have contributed to social progress. Ramana Maharshi is a great man who belongs to the latter category. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi

Ramana Maharshi was born in 1879. There is a small village, thirty miles from Madurai, in Tamilnadu. The name of the village is Tiruchuli. The village has a small temple. In a house close to the temple lived a couple called Sundaram Iyer and Alagammal. They were an ideal couple.

Both the husband and the wife were God - fearing and kind hearted.

The couple had three sons. Venkata- ramana was the second among them. He was born on December 30. It was the day of the Jatra (the Village Community Festival). There was nothing remarkable in the early life of Venkataramana. He grew up like other boys. His elementary education was completed in the village school. When he was twelve years old, his father Sundaram Iyer passed away. Alagammal had to leave the village, go to Madurai with her children, and live with Subba Iyer, brother of Sundaram Iyer. Venkataramana joined the Mission High School and continued his education.

Venkataramana showed no interest in the lessons. He was very lazy. It used to be a task for his mother to send him to school each day. But the boy kept radiant health. His classmates were afraid of him. He was very strong. One interesting thing about him was his deep slumber. He used to sleep so soundly that he would not be awakened even by any thing his friends did to him -if they beat him or carried him to some other place and left him the he would not wake up. He was fitting nick named 'Kumbhakarna' (brother Ravana, the King of the Rakshasas in to 'Ramayana'; Kumbhakarna slept sound for months). Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi

Who ever -knew that this boy would become a saint some day? But many of the important events in life come about by chance. Venkataramana became a saint How did it come about?

When the boy was sixteen years old, one day a guest came to the house of Subba lyer. He was asked where he came from. He replied, "From Arunachala." The word attracted Venkataramana'

curiosity. He asked: "Was it from Arunachala you came? Where is it?" The guest replied: Tiruvannamalai itself is Arunachala."

Something attracted the boy. He made up his mind then and there that he should visit Arunachala once. One of the Tamil poems that he had read was Kulothunga's 'Periya Purana'. The stories relating to Shaiva saints narrated in it left a deep impression on his mind. The example of those saints produced a strange effect on the Wart and mind of the boy. 'How I wish that I could also become one like them!' so he yearned. From that very day he commenced solitary, silent meditation on God. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Body Is Not 'I'

It was the middle of the year-1896. Venkataramana was only seventeen years old. One day, as usual, he was in the first floor of his uncle's house, in a mood of deep thought. His health was good. But all of a sudden, he was seized by the fear of death. He felt he was almost dying. Trying to prevent this feeling from weakening him, he began to think of what he should do. He said to himself:

'Now death is approaching. I am dying. What is death? This body gets lost.'

Then he held his breath completely, closed his lips and eyes, lay down as one dead, and began to ponder:

'Now my body is dead. They will carry this body, motionless, to the cremation ground and burn it. But do I really die with this body? Am I merely this body? My body is now motionless. But still I know my name. I remember my parents, uncles, brothers, friends and all others. It means that I have a knowledge of my individuality. If so, the "I" in me is not merely my body; it is a deathless spirit.'

Thus, as in a flash, a new realization came to Venkataramana. His thoughts may seem boyish fancy. But one thing must be remembered. Usually a man wins God realization by performing tapas for years and years, without food and sleep; he subjects the body to great suffering. But Venkataramana won the highest knowledge without all these. The fear of death left him. Venkataramana became 'Ramana Maharshi'.

Studies at school, relations and friends none of them seemed important to him, He ever dreamed of Arunachala. He spent the greater part of the day in solitary meditation. He tried to escape from surroundings, and to grow in solitude. Away from friends he would seek a lonely place. It became difficult for his mother to find him and bring him home for food. Every day Venkataramana visited the Meenakshi temple. His interest in Gods and saints grew deeper.

His brother observed all these changes in his behavior. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Boy Leaves Home

It was the 29th of August 1896 weeks had passed since his strange experience. He did not answer a question in the English class. So the teacher asked him to copy some passages from a text book of grammer three times. The boy wrote two times and then stopped. Understanding the uselessness of what he was doing, he threw aside the book and pen, and entered into meditation in the classroom. The teacher also saw it. What could he do with such a queer boy? The teacher sat dumbfounded.

Venkataramana resolved to go to Arunachalam. If he had informed the elders at home, they would certainly not have given him permission. Therefore, the only way open to him was to run away from home without anybody's knowledge.

He looked into the map and located the railway station near Tiruvannamalai. He needed three rupees to reach the place. The same day his brother had received five rupees from his mother to pay his (the brother's) college fees; he gave the money to Venkataramana, and asked him to go to the college and pay it. But Venkataramana told his people that he had a special class and left home that afternoon. Before leaving, he addressed a letter to his brother, which ran as follows:

'I have left to seek 'lather'. Nobody need worry about me. No money need 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 of two rupees is with this note.'

When Venkataramana left home, it was afternoon. He went straight to the Railway Station. Fortunately the train arrived late that day. Otherwise he could not have travelled that day. He bought a ticket for two rupees and thirteen annas (one anna is roughly six paise); he still had three annas. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Journey

Venkataramana boarded the train and sat in a corner. He had no desire to speak with anybody. But a Maulvi Saheb who sat beside him began a conversation. It was from him that Venkataramana learnt that it was possible to go up to Tiruvannamalai by train. As he had already bought a ticket, this information was of no use to him. He was hungry. He bought some fruits for half an anna and ate them.

Early next morning he reached Viluppuram station. He had decided to walk the distance to Tiruvannamalai. He was very tired. He was hungry also. He entered a hotel on the way, and asked -if food was ready. He had to wait a long time for food. After food, he paid two annas to the owner of the hotel. But the owner asked him ho w many money ties had. The boy answered, "Two and a half annas." Probably the owner felt sorry for him. He did not take any money from him. He also listened to the boy's tale and suggested that it was better to reach Tiruvannamalai by train. So Venkataramana walked again to Vilup-puram station. With the money he had, he could travel up to Mambalapattu on the way. He bought a ticket and continued the journey. He got down at Mambalapattu. He had no money and had to continue the journey on fast. So he walked and walked, and by the, evening, he had covered ten miles.

Venkataramana was tired because of the long walk. By evening he reached a village called Arayininallur. There was a Shiva temple in the village. He entered the village temple and fell into meditation. He had a vision of divine illumination.

The priest of the temple observed the boy in deep meditation. As he had to Lock the door of the temple, he woke up the boy. The priest had to go to another temple at a. place called Kilur, three miles away to offer worship there. Venkataramana followed him to Kilur. He fell into mediator again in that temple. The priest woke him up after his worship, and took him to the house of a Sastriji in the village.

As soon as Venkataramana reached the house, he fell down in an unconscious state. A few minutes later, When he regained consciousness, a large number of people had gathered around him. All eyes were fixed to him in curiosity. He drank a little water and felt revived. Sastriji served him food. After food he went to sleep.

Next morning he got up early. It was Krishna Janmastami day. Venkataramana was very eager to continue the journey. But he had no money. Besides, he was very tired. So he stopped in front of a house on the way.

The name of the owner of the house was Krishna Bhagavathar. Venkataramana, who was hungry, asked for a morsel of food. The mistress of the house was a kind lady. She felt happy and thought it a privilege to give food to a young sanyasin, and that too, on the Krishnastami day. That afternoon, Venkataramana partook of a feast in the Bhagavathar's house.

He had to continue his journey. But he had no money. He took off his earrings, gave them to the Bhagavathar, and requested him to keep them and give him four rupees. The Bhagavathar who examined the ear-rings, decided they were worth at least twenty rupees. He gave the boy four rupees, wrote out his own address on a piece of paper and gave it to him. He said to Venkata ramana, "Come and take back your ear rings at any time." The mistress of the house gave some sweets to the, boy, before he left. Venkataramana continued his journey. He tore to pieces the paper on which the address of the Bhagavathar was written, and threw them to the winds. He had no thought of taking back the earrings. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Ship Reaches The Port

Venkataramana reached Tiruvannamalai on the next day. His joy knew no bounds. With great enthusiasm he ran towards the temple of Arunachaleshwara. All the doors were open. There was no one in the temple. His heart throbbing with, joys, the boy stood before Lord Arunachaleshwara.

So, Venkataramana's long journey came to an end. The ship had reached the port safely. He became a sanyasi (a monk). He threw into the pond the little money he had with him together with the sweets that the Bhagavathar's wife had given him. He thought, 'This body died away, why make a fuss about it?' And so he did not bathe. He settled down in the temple.

Soon some naughty boys began to tease him. As he sat in meditation, they used to throw stones at him. To escape from them Venkataramana changed the place of his meditation to the under-ground cellar. This cellar was called Pathalalinga. For some days he was there without being troubled by the boys. But the naughty boys found out that place, too.

In the Arunachaleshwara temple, there was an aged sanyasin called Seshadri. Some people though the was a mad man. He not only saw to it that Venkataramana was not teased by the boys, but also under took to find food for him.

The meditation of the young sanyasin soon attracted the attention of the people. They took it upon themselves to look after him. But, generally he never spoke to anybody. Not that he had taken a vow of silence; 'the truth was that he had no desire to speak to any one. When he was forced to speak, he said just what was absolutely necessary. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi

Six months must have passed. A gentleman, Thambi Rangaswamy by name, invited the young sanyasin to go and stay with him. Venkataramana agreed. The gentleman had a garden called 'Brindavan' and he made the necessary arrangements for the sanyasin'smeditation there. His prayers and meditationcontinued undisturbed there. He could think deeply and meditate on God; and so, new knowledge dawned on him. Many problems had troubled his mind. What is God?

'What man means Soul? What is the relation between the Atman and the Paramatman (the Soul and God)? What happens to the Atman after the death of the body? Is the Atman also subject to death as the body is? Or is it immortal?' Now he found answers to all these questions.

Venkataramana arose from the 'Samadhi' (or trance of contemplation); after this, knowledge came to him. He decided to suggest solutions to the problems of people patiently and to relieve their sufferings. His fame spread far and wide. The number of people visiting him grew. Pilgrims who came to the shrine of Arunachala came to pay him homage, without fail.

There was a mango grove very near Thambi Rangaswami's residence. Venkataramana resolved to stay there. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
Meeting The Mother Again

Nelliappa lyer, one of Venkataramana's uncles, somehow learnt that Venkata Ramana did tapas and became a sanyasin. Alagammal sent him to bring her son home. He arrived at Arunachala. What if he arrived? His efforts to take the boy home were in vain. He returned home disappointed and informed the fact to Alagammal.

Alagammal herself went to Tiruvanna malai. Her eldest son also went with her. Though Venkataramana recognized his mother, he did not say a word to her. The mother cried and wept. Venkataramana remained silent. One of the pilgrims was observing the mother's grief and the son's firmness of mind. He felt pity for the mother. On behalf of the mother, he requested Venkataramana at least to write on a piece of paper what he wanted to convey to her. Venkataramana wrote as follows: Everyone has to work according to "Prarabdha Karma" (result of the action done in past life carried to the present). However much one may strive, what cannot happen will not happen. In the same way, however much one may resist, what has to happen will happen.Therefore, the one and only way open to every person is to carry out his duty.' Alagammal had to return home disappointed with a heavy heart. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Family Grows

After some time Venkataramana abandoned the mango grove, returned to Mount Arunachala, and commenced his meditation, settling down at the Virupaksha temple. But the stream of visitors increased even there. Many of them were weary- of the difficulties and sorrows of earthly life and sought peace. Others were eager to have more knowledge of Atman and Paramatman. Each man had a problem of his own. And Venkataramana had a satisfactory solution to everyone's problems. So day by day the number of visitors grew.

Etchammal was one of the many visitors who came for the 'darshan' of Ramana everyday. Her life was filled with grief. She had lost her husband, children, and all. Somebody suggested that she might have a darshan of Ramana. In his presence she forgot grief and experienced peace of mind. Ramana had no though of rest or food; Etcharnmal took upon herself the duty of providing food punctually to Ramana.

In 1907, a Samskrita scholar named Ganapathi Sastry came to Tiruvannamalai He was famous as 'Ganapathi Muni'. He was a worshipper of Devi. He was drawn to the young sanyasin by the force of his personality and came to see him. When he first saw Ramana, he was gazing at the sun. It was a habit with him to gaze the scorching sun in the afternoon till the sunset. Ganapathi Muni stayed with Ramana for a number of days and had discussions with him; many of his doubts were cleared.

Although he had studied the Vedanta (Indian Philosophy) and the Upanishads, he had not clearly understood what 'tapasya' meant. The simple explanation that Ramana gave cleared a big doubt that tormented him. It was Ganapathi Muni who gave the young Sanyasin the name of 'Maharshi' or '13hagawan'. Not only that. He wrote hymns in Samskrita, in praise of Ramana Maharshi, and wrote a book with the title 'Ramana Gita' explaining his teachings. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
Mother And Brother

Some time later, Alagammal lost her eldest son.Then she went to Tiruvanna- malai with her younger sonNagasundaram. She soon fell ill and suffered from typhoid for many weeks. The Maharshi put aside his meditation and nursed his mother with devotion. He prayed to Lord Arunachal- eshwara for the quick recovery of his mother, and composed several hymns. In one of the hymns he said: 'Oh Lord, it is your duty to save my mother who has steadfast faith in you.'

When Alagammal regained her health, she and Nagasundaram settled down with at Tiruvannamalai. She took charge of the kitchen. Nagasundaram was also initiated into sanyasa. He was given the name of Niranjanananda. The inmates of the Ashram called him 'Chinna Swamy' (the junior Swamy). Ramana Maharshi's mother passed away in May 1922. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Ashram

An Ashram was built for Ramana Maharshi on the top of the Mount and was named 'Ramanashram'. It was the result of the devoted efforts of the disciples of Ramana who came to stay with him.

Niranjanananda won the affection of all the ashramites. In course of time the number of people living in the Ashram increase. A temple was also built there. The Ashram progressed rapidly. Not only people from all parts of India but also people from abroad began to pour into Ramanashram.

The number of disciples seeking advice and help from Ramana in their spiritual life grew day by day.

A gentleman by name F. H. Humphry was his first Western disciple. He came to India in 1911, to fill a high post in the Department of Police at Vellore in Madras State. He was keen to study the Principle of Hinduism. Ganapathi Muni directed 'him to Ramana Maharshi. His visits to Raman and talks with him solved all his problem,, and he attained peace of mind. He uses to visit the Ashram now and then, as on as he stayed in India, and to exchange thoughts with the Maharshi. He contribute articles in English to the 'Internation, PsychicGazette' about his experience with Ramana Maharshi and the Ramanashram. This helped to spread the fame of Ramana Maharshi quickly through out the world.

This was what he wrote about the Maharshi: 'A smile of Ramana Maharshi is exceedingly beautiful. No one can imagine anything more beautiful than that. It is sweet and joyous experience to be in hispresence for a while.' Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
Thieves There Too

People began to flock to Ramanashram in large numbers. Everyone who went there was not necessarily good. Once in 1924, a band of thieves came to the Ashram in the guise of disciples. All the valuable things in the Ashram were looted. One of them thrashed even the Maharshi. But Ramana’s disciples caught him. They asked for permission to punish the thief. Ramana did not give his consent. His reply was: 'The snakebites, the scorpion stings, the bull buffs. Are we right in crushing them because they do so? We should try to keep away from them.Even so, the thieves think that it is their nature to commit theft. But to pardon them is our Dharma (sacred duty). True humanity lies not in returning violence for violence, but in forgiveness. Let us set the man free."

Then, he turned to the thief who hadbeaten him and said, "If you are not satisfied, you give me another blow." There were tears of repentance in the thieve's eyes.Ramana advised him and sent him away. To ask for forgiveness when one has erred, and to forgive one, who has asked for forgive- ness, are acts of great value in Ramana Maharshi's view. When the thieves left, Ramana Maharshi observed jokingly: "They have worshipped me also." Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
Love For All Living Beings

Ramana Maharshi was full of compassion. He used to feel pity for the hardships of others. He was sympathetic towards those in sorrow. So at the very first meeting he became dear to them. He was the friend not only of human beings but also animals and birds. His Ashram would bring to memory the abodes of Rishis of bygone days. Cows, birds, monkeys and squirrels were his companions. He used to refer to them always as 'he' and 'she', but never as 'it'. The cow 'Lakshmi', was the great pet of everyone. Animals and birds used to be fed regularly at the Ashram. Whenever an animal or a bird died, the last rites were performed in all earnestness. Ramana Maharshi believed that, like human beings, animals and birds have life as well as joys and sorrows, and, therefore, they too should be treated with sympathy. This is a good example of his boundless affection.

Ramana Maharshi never left Arunachala till death came to him. His Ashram life was quiet and peaceful. Some of the visitors to Arunachala used to stay with him for a few days. Some others settled there. The Ashram grew extensively. Arrangements for sanitation and medical help and organization of board and lodging for the devotees, were all looked after by the disciples themselves. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
Life In The Ashrarn

Many departments were opened in the Ashram. Among them, separate cattle- sheds,a school for the study of the Vedas, a Publications’Section and a temple of Sridevi were the important ones. Ramana -Maharshi was never inactive. He used to be ever active. He himself attended to every piece of work from proof-correction to Ashram correspondence. He took interest in all the activities of the Ashram.

Ramana Maharshi found it delightful to go round Mount Arunachala. He had cultivated a garden of flowers, fruits and vegetables in a part of the Ashram. He would not allow even a single article of the Ashram to be wasted. The peels of fruits and vegetables were given as food to cows. All the members of the Ashram were treated as equals. The same food was served to all. The Maharshi also sat for food along with others. He never wished to be shown special regard.

The Maharshi was an embodiment of nonviolence. The way he treated the thieves who broke into the Ashram is an example of it. He would pity the bad men who did evil to others. He often used to say the it was not wise to break the teeth just because it bit the tongue in ignorance His conviction was that the wise should not punish bad people but should correct them by gentle persuasion.

He would not allow even birds and animals to be ill treated in the Ashram. Once while he was tending a dying monkey, it bit his leg, and he was wounded. He did not become angry or unhappy. The great love he bore towards the animals made him forget the pain of the wound.

When the cow Lakshmi died, Ramana Maharshi sat by her side and wept, as though she was his mother! It is said that one day when he was sitting on a rock in Mount Arunachala, a serpent passed over his thighs. Somebody, who observed this, asked him: "Did you not experience fear as the serpent moved across your body?" Ramana replied with a smile: "No. I had the feeling that some thing cool and soft was moving on my body." Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
What Courage

Devotees used to pour in for 'darshan' from five o'clock in the early morning. Then there would be the chanting of Vedic hymns for some time. After breakfast at seven, Ramana would move about for an hour on the Mount and return. At eight, he would sit for meditation along with the devotees. Normally he would not speak to them. But if the devotees expressed some doubt, he would give them suitable replies.

Meal would be over by eleven. After that, till two o’clock in the afternoon, there would be no activity of any sort. Again the devotees would begin to arrive for darshan and discussion, after which Raman would go again for a stroll for some time. That would be followed by chanitng for Vedic hymns. Supper would be over by seven-thirty. This was the routine in the Ashram.

Ramana Maharshi did not expound his teachings either in speeches or in books. He would give simple, direct, short and cleat replies to the questions put to him by his devotees. He used to guide his devotees. He used to guide his devotees always on the path of reason. His constant teaching to his devotees always on the path of reason. His constant teaching to his devotees was that the way to cleanse the mind of its impurities was meditation. According to him, the mind becomes pure by thinking over and over again about the source of evils.

In the ashram, all were welcome with out distinction of caste or religious belief. Whatever the caste or disease of the visitor, no one prevented him from entering the Ashram. Raman maharshi held that all were children of god. Freeindia > Biographies > Sages, Rushis And Saints > Ramana Maharshi
The Last Days

By the year 1947, Ramana's health began to decline. His doctors advised him to take utritous food. But he did not evince any interest in their advice. He had the same kind of food as was served to others. As days passed, his condition grew worse. A small tumour was found growing on his left forehand. Doctors who examined it declared it to be sarkoma. They operated and removed it. But it appeared again. An expert doctor was summoned from Madras. He suggested that if the Maharshi was to survive, the left hand itself should be amputated.The Maharshi firmly refused

He said:

"There is not need for it. This body itself is a big disease. Such being the case why should the hand itself be cut off? Let any thing happen. Let, this hand die naturally." He didn't bend to any kind o persuasion. Doctors performed an operation. In spite of it, Ramana Maharshi's health did not improve. The disease only great worse. The tumour grew bigger. The wound did not heal at all. Ramana Maharshi remained untouched by it. That he showed not signs of pain was a wonder to all the ashramites.

People from far and near flocked to the Ashram to have the last darshan of Ramana Maharshi. They were all sorrow- stricken. Ramana Maharshi himself had to console them all. He said his devotees "Every one that is born must die. The body is not the soul. Therefore nobody need feel miserable for the death of the body."

Ramana Maharshi breathed his last at two o'clock in the night of April 24, 1950.

Ramana Maharshi did not write many books. Everything that he wrote was only for his devotees and at their request. He wrote both verse and prose. All his poems were composed in some context, at Somebody's request. They are all compiled under the caption 'Forty Verses'. This is his best work. He has also written a work called 'Upadesha Sara'. He translated Shankaracharya's 'Viveka Choodamani' into Tamil. He wrote much in Tamil. He could write in Samskrita, Telugu and Malayalam languages, too.

Paul Brunton, a devotee, once asked "Is it possible to give up self-interest even when one is engaged in the affairs of the world?"

Ramana replied: "Work and knowledge are not opposed to each other."

A man may be engaged in his work, in his profession. He should give up the thought of 'myself, my happiness and my glory', realizing that there is no happiness in them. He should not feel, 'I am weak'. There is strength in every one. Every one can find peace and happiness.

Thus Ramana Maharshi showed the path of redemption even to the common man.

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Published on: 2003-01-18 (30053 reads)

[ Go Back ]
Ramana Maharshi
The Body Is Not 'I'
The Boy Leaves Home
The Journey
The Ship Reaches The Port
Meeting The Mother Again
The Family Grows
Mother And Brother
The Ashram
Thieves There Too
Love For All Living Beings
Life In The Ashrarn
What Courage
The Last Days
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