“Of all the thoughts that rise in the mind, the thought ‘I’ is the first thought.”
-Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi
Today birthday of Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharshi is celebrated all over India. Ramana Maharshi (30 December 1879 – 14 April 1950) was a Hindu sage and jivanmukta. He was born Venkataraman Iyer, but is most commonly known by the name Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi.
He was born in what is now Tiruchuli, Tamil Nadu, India. In 1895, an attraction to the sacred hill Arunachala and the 63 Nayanars was aroused in him, and in 1896, at the age of 16, he had a “death-experience” where he became aware of a “current” or “force” (avesam) which he recognised as his true “I” or “self”, which he later identified with Ishvara. This resulted in a state that he later described as “the state of mind of Iswara or the jnani”. Six weeks later he left his uncle’s home in Madurai, and journeyed to the holy mountain Arunachala, in Tiruvannamalai, where he took on the role of a sannyasin, and remained for the rest of his life.
He soon attracted devotees who regarded him as an avatar and came to him for darshan, and in later years an ashram grew up around him, where visitors received upadesa (“spiritual instruction”) by sitting silently in his company and raising their concerns and questions. Since the 1930s his teachings have been popularised in the West, resulting in his worldwide recognition as an enlightened being.
Ramana Maharshi approved a number of paths and practices, but recommended self-enquiry s the principal means to remove ignorance and abide in Self-awareness, together with bhakti (devotion)
“The degree of freedom from unwanted thoughts and the degree of concentration on a single thought are the measures to gauge spiritual progress”
Arunachaleswara temple (1896–1897)
On arriving in Tiruvannamalai, Maharshi went to the temple of Arunachaleswara. The first few weeks he spent in the thousand-pillared hall, then shifted to other spots in the temple, and eventually to the Patala-lingam vault so that he might remain undisturbed. There, he spent days absorbed in such deep samādhi that he was unaware of the bites of vermin and pests. Seshadri Swamigal, a local saint, discovered him in the underground vault and tried to protect him
Discovery by westerners (1930-1940)
In 1931 a biography of Ramana Maharshi, Self Realisation: The Life and Teachings of Ramana Maharshi, written by B. V. Narasimha, was published. Ramana then became relatively well known in and out of India after 1934 when Paul Brunton, having first visited Ramana in January 1931, published the book A Search in Secret India. In this book he describes how he was compelled by the Paramacharya of Kanchi to meet Ramana Maharshi, his meeting with Ramana Maharshi, and the effect this meeting had on him. Brunton also describes how Ramana’s fame had spread, “so that pilgrims to the temple were often induced to go up the hill and see him before they returned home. Brunton calls Ramana “one of the last of India’s spiritual supermen.
While staying at Sri Ramanasramam, Brunton had an experience of a “sublimely all-embracing” awareness, a “Moment of Illumination”. The book was a best-seller, and introduced Ramana Maharshi to a wider audience in the west. Resulting visitors included Paramahans Yogananda Somerset Maugham(whose 1944 novel The Razor’s Edge models its spiritual guru after Ramana), Mercedes de Acosta and Arthur Osborne, the last of whom was the first editor of Mountain Path in 1964, the magazine published by Ramanasramam.