Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Brief Life Sketch of Bhagavan Ramana (1879 - 1950) - 01

Hare Krishna Friends,

Today, we will start with the Life Sketch of Bhagavan Ramana. There might be many other seekers in the forum who know more about Bhagavan and his teachings and I may not be the one competent enough to write about the glorious Maharshi. But still, surrendering completely to the holy feet of Sri Ramana, I will make an effort to present the following to the best of my abilities. You are all welcome to add more wherever required. For the Life sketch part, I am drawing material from the books “The Path of Sri Ramana” by Sri Sadhu Om, “A Sadhu’s Reminiscence of Ramana Maharshi” by Sadhu Arunachala and “Bhagavan Ramana” by the renowned professor T. M. P. Mahadevan.

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Bhagavan Sri Ramana was born on the 30th of December 1879 as the second son of Sundaram Iyer and Azhahammal in Tiruchuzhi, a Siva-kshetra thirty miles south-east of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. His parents named Him Venkataraman. His elder brother was Nagaswami, His younger brother was Nagasundaram, and Alarmelu was his sister.

Venkataraman completed His primary education in Tiruchuzhi and Dindukkul. When He was twelve years old, owing to the fact that His father passed away, He and His elder brother moved to their parental uncle’s house in Madurai to continue their higher education in the American Mission High School. Though He had a clear and sharp intellect and a keen power of memory, it seems that He did not use them in His school work. He was merely an average student in His class, but having a healthy body. He was foremost in wrestling, football, staff-fighting, swimming and so on. Before He stood for the tenth standard examination, the great divine change in His life took place all of a sudden. To bring about this great change He did not read any scripture nor did He have a Guru in physical form. Though by chance He had read the ‘Periyapuranam’, the lives of the sixty-three Tamil Saints, even that was not the actual cause for His Self-realization. Then what could have been the cause? Let us hear what he had himself said about it:

“It was about six weeks before I left Madurai for good that the great change in my life took place. It was so sudden. One day I sat up alone on the first floor of my uncle’s house. I was in my usual health. I seldom had any illness. I was a heavy sleeper. When I was in Dindigul in 1891 a huge crowd had gathered close to the room where I slept and tried to rouse me by shouting and knocking at the door, all in vain, and it was only by their getting into my room and giving me a violent shake that I was roused from my torpor. This heavy sleep was rather a proof of good health. I was also subject to fits of half-awake sleep at night. My wily playmates, afraid to trifle with me when I was awake, would go to me when I was asleep, pull me to my feet, take me all round the playground, beat me, cuff me, sport with me, and bring me back to my bed - and all the while I would put up with everything with a meekness, humility, forgiveness and passivity unknown in my waking state. When the morning broke I had no remembrance of the night’s experience. But these fits did not render me weaker or less fit for life, and were hardly to be considered a disease. So on that day, as I sat alone, there was nothing wrong with my health. But a sudden and unmistakable fear of death seized me. I felt I was going to die. Why I should have so felt cannot be explained by anything felt in the body. Nor could I explain it to myself then. I did not however trouble myself to discover if the fear was well grounded. I felt ‘I am going to die,’ and at once set about thinking out what I should do. I did not care to consult doctors or elders or even friends. I felt I had to solve the problem myself then and there.”

“The shock of death made me at once introspective, or ‘introverted’. I said to myself mentally, i.e., without uttering the words, ‘Now, death has come. What does it mean? What is it that is dying? This body dies.’ I at once dramatized the scene of death. I extended my limbs and held them rigid as though rigor-mortis had set in. I imitated a corpse to lend an air of reality to my further investigation. I held my breath and kept my mouth closed, pressing my lips tightly together so that no sound might escape. Let not the word ‘I’ or any other word be uttered! ‘Well then,’ said I to myself, ‘this body is dead. It will be carried stiff to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death of the body, am “I” dead? Is this body “I”? This body is silent and inert. But I feel the full force of my personality and even the sound “I” within myself, apart from the body. So “I” am a spirit, a thing transcending the body. The material body dies, but the spirit transcending it cannot be touched by death. I am therefore the deathless spirit’. All this was not a mere intellectual process, but flashed before me vividly as living truth, something which I perceived immediately, without any argument almost. ‘I’ was something real, the only real thing in that state, and all the conscious activity that was connected with my body was centered on that. Then ‘I’ or my ‘Self’ was holding the focus of attention by a powerful fascination from that time forwards. Fear of death had vanished once and for ever. Absorption in the Self has continued from that moment right up to this time. Other thoughts may come and go like the various notes of a musician, but the ‘I’ continues like the basic or fundamental Sruti note (drone) which accompanies and blends with all other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading or anything else, I was still centered on ‘I’. Previous to that crisis I had no clear perception of myself and was not consciously attracted to it. I had felt no direct perceptible interest in it, much less any permanent disposition to dwell upon it. The consequences of this new habit were soon noticed in my life.”

This true knowledge of Self (atma-jnana) shone forth clear in Him as a direct experience, and the fear of death which had risen in Him vanished once and for ever. From that time onwards, this state of Self-experience continued to shine permanently in Him as His natural state unbound by time and space and without increase or decrease. Although afterwards many people believed that in His early years in Tiruvannamalai Sri Bhagavan was performing deliberate austerities (tapas) or doing some spiritual practices (sadhanas), on a number of occasions in His later years He clearly refuted such ideas. He once said, “The sun that shone in Madurai was found to remain the same is Tiruvannamalai. Nothing was newly added to or removed from my experience”.

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We will continue with this in the next email.



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