By Swami Harshananda
Ramaṇa Maharṣi lived in A. D. 1879-1950. Ramaṇa Maharṣi was undoubtedly one of the greatest spiritual giants of the Modern country born at Tirucculi in Tamil Nadu on the 30th December 1879 as the second son of Sundaram Iyer and Alagammāl. His original name was Veṇkaṭarāma.
Journey for Self-Realization
One day in 1895, he accidentally heard the name of a place of pilgrimage dedicated to Śiva, Aruṇācala, which produced an ecstatic experience. Next year, he had another strange experience, as if he had died and was yet living, fully conscious, looking at his own ‘dead body’. This produced a deep conviction in him that he was the spirit transcending the body and the mind, generally called ‘ātman’ in Vedānta. Soon after this experience, he left his home for good and went to Aruṇācala, in the quest of that spiritual experience and to make it a permanent asset of his life.
There was a cave-like structure below the large temple hall, known as pātālaliṅga. The young mendicant started living there, mostly in deep meditation. During this period, some good Samaritans took care of him. He also had to change his dwelling place a number of times. His mother Alagammāl who tried to take him back home, ultimately started staying with him permanently. Some of the places where he stayed before settling down at the present place in A. D. 1922 are now known as Ramaṇāśrama. They are:
- The Virupākṣa Cave - 17 years
- The Skandāśrama - 6 years
Both the places are in the vicinity of the present āśrama. First signs of cancer appeared on his left elbow in A. D. 1948. In spite of repeated operations, radium therapy and various other kinds of treatment, it did not subside. He passed away on the 14th April 1950.
Transit as Ātmajñāni
As he became famous as ātmajñāni or as a jīvanmukta, devotees, spiritual aspirants and others started pouring in, in large numbers. The town Tiruvaṇṇāmali and the Ramaṇāśrama, his abode became a veritable place of pilgrimage. Some of the prominent persons who were deeply influenced by him were:
- Kāvyakaṇṭha Gaṇapati Muni, a great scholar
- Paul Brunton
- Major A. W. Chadwick
- S. S. Cohen
- Arthur Osborne
Brunton and Osborne have written biographies of the sage.
Teachings of Ramaṇa Maharṣi
The true nature of an ātmajñāni, a man who has realized his Self, was revealed in his life and personality, constantly and continuously. Silent radiation of intense peace was the chief characteristic of his personality. His main teaching or advice to the aspirants was to find out
“Who am I"
Works by Ramaṇa Maharṣi
His most famous work is Ulladu Nārpadu in Tamil. Its Sanskrit version is Sad-darśana by Gaṇapati Muni. Another work, a spontaneous outpouring of marital love or bridal mysticism towards Aruṇācala Śiva is Srī Arunācala Akṣaramana Mālai containing 108 verses in Tamil. It was composed during one of the circum-ambulations of the Aruṇācala hill.
There are also few other compositions in verses containing high Advaitic sentiments. There is no doubt that he was the brightest spiritual star of the most recent period in the firmament of religion and philosophy.
- It was a sarcoma cancer.
- Ātmajñāni means self realized soul.
- It is Nān yārl.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore