Venkatraman Iyer (Ramana Maharishi) was born on 30th December 1879 at Thiruchuzhi on Arudra Darshanam Day. His Parents were Azhagammal and Sundaram Iyer . His siblings were Nagaswami, Nagasundaram and Alamelu.
EARLY YEARS OF VENKATARAMAN
Venkataraman did his Elementary schooling at Thiruchuzhi, TamilNadu, South India. After the death of his Father he shifted with his brother to Madurai in 1892. There he Studied in Scott’s Middle school and then High schooling in American Mission school. He was a good athlete in his school. He had an amazingly good memory which enabled him to repeat a lesson after reading it once.
Another abnormal thing about him was in his deep sleep he would not know of anything that happened to him during sleep. He would be carried away or even beaten without his waking up in the process.
SPARKS OF ENLIGHTENMENT
During his school days he happened to read Sekkizhar’s Periyapuranam, a book that describes the lives of the 63 Nayanars, which made a great impression on him, and revealed to him that Divine Union is possible. From this time on, a current of awareness began to awaken in him
In 1896,a life changing event happened . In order to overcome the fear of death he started imagining that he is dead by holding his breath and keeping his body stiff so that to all outward appearance his body resembled a corpse. He commanded his mind that his body is dead and It will be carried to the burning ground and there burnt and reduced to ashes. But with the death, of this body am I dead? Is the body I? From this experience Ramana understood that the body dies but the spirit that transcends it cannot be touched by death. Fear of death had vanished once and for all. He felt himself to be an eternal entity, existing without reliance on the physical body or material world. There was noticed a complete change in his life. The things that he had cared for earlier completely lost their value. The spiritual values, which he had ignored till then, became the only objects of attention.
During the same period it was apparently by accident that Venkataraman heard about Arunachala when he was sixteen years of age. One day an elderly relative called on the family in Madurai. The boy asked him where he had come from. The relative replied ‘From Arunachala’. The very name ‘Arunachala’ acted as a magic spell on Venkataraman, and with evident excitement he put his next question, ‘What! From Arunachala! Where is it?’ And he got the reply that Tiruvannamalai was Arunachala.
On August 29th while working on a grammar assignment, Venkataraman suddenly realized the futility of it all, pushed the papers away and sitting cross legged entered into deep meditation. His brother Nagaswami who was observing him, remarked caustically, “What use is all this to such a one?” Recognizing the truth of his brother’s criticism, Venkataraman resolved and secretly left his brother’s house. On September 1st 1896, three days after leaving home, Venkataraman reached Tiruvannamalai. As a sign of welcome, the gates of the three high compound walls and all the doors, even that of the inner shrine, stood open. There was no one else inside, so he entered the inner shrine alone and stood overcome before His father Arunachala. “I have come at your call, Lord. Accept me and do with me as you will.”.
Sri Ramana Maharshi stayed at various places in Tiruvannamalai and then in several caves on the Arunachala Hill until he finally settled at what came to be called Sri Ramanasramam where he lived until his Mahanirvana in April 1950.
THE EARLY LIFE AT ARUNACHALA
Venkatraman spent the initial days at the thousand pillared hall. Mounaswami of the Gopura SubramanyaShrine made sure that food was fed to him. He then shifted to the Patala Lingam vault. A local saint named Seshadri Swami found him in the underground vault and tried to protect him. Next he moved to Vahana Mantapam .From Vahana Mantapam Brahmana Swami moved to Gurumurtam. Palani swami served him as a permanent attendant. Brahmana Swami’s mother Alagammal came to know about her son and approached him. After this event, Brahmana Swami went up the hill Arunachala and started living in the Virupaksha Cave(1899-1916 ).Then moved from Virupaksa Cave to Skandasramam Cave, a little higher up the hill (1916-1922). In 1922, he moved to a spot on the foot of the hill, where the present day Sri Ramanashram grew around him.
RAMANAR AS THE MAUNA GURU
Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi always maintained that ‘silence’ was his primary and most direct teaching. Abiding in and as the Self, as the unmoving substratum of manifestation, he emanated a silent radiance that quietened the minds of those who were drawn to him. This silent presence resolved the doubts and problems of those who came to see him, and on occasions even gave them a direct glimpse of the Self. When Sri Ramana spoke on the subject of silence, he usually used the Sanskrit word ‘mauna’. In using this term he made it clear that he was not indicating a mere absence of sound; rather, he was referring to the unmoving, silent, peaceful state of the Self that is beyond and prior to the antonyms of noise and physical quietness.
For Sri Ramana mauna was both the state of the enlightened being and the medium through which an awareness of the Self is transmitted. He also maintained that those who could remain mentally silent in his presence were the ones who would be most able to take advantage of the silent spiritual energy that was flowing from him
SOME OF THE DEVOTEES
In 1907 Ganapathi Muni ,a great scholar,proclaimed Ramana to be Maharishi and Bhagawan. Ganapathi Muni also composed the Ramana Gita.
Palaniswami was regularly doing puja to the Ganesha idol at Ayyankulum and was leading the life of a sadhu. From Gurumurtam to Virupaksha Cave (1899-1916) to Skandasramam Cave (1916-1922) on the holy mountain Arunachala, he was the instrument of divine protection for Ramana. Palaniswami would beg for alms, cook and prepare meals for himself and Ramana, and care for him as needed.
SRI MURUGANAR (1893-1973)
Muruganar was a well-respected Tamil scholar. It was immediately clear to Muruganar that Sri Bhagavan was the Guru he had been seeking. He lived as Ramana’s shadow for 26 years.Books written by Sri Muruganar:Guruvachaka Kovai,Sri Ramanapuranam. Muruganar was also instrumental in Ramana’s writing of Upadesa Saram
PRINCIPLE TEACHING OF BHAGAVAN RAMANA
Atma Vichara – “Who am I?” Or the Introversion of attention upon the I – Thought and the deep tracing of the I – thought to its source.
RAMANAR’S LOVE FOR ANIMALS
The ashram was a sanctuary for animals and Ramana had great fondness for the cows, monkeys, birds, and squirrels that inhabited the grounds. He showed them the same consideration that he did to the humans that went to him. All of them behaved intelligently — especially the cow Laksmi. He knew their ways quite intimately. He would see to it that they were fed properly and well.
CANCER – AM I THE BODY?
In February 1949, the Cancer was removed by the ashram doctor without any anesthetia. After the operation, a devotee asked Ramana, “Did not that hurt?” to which Ramana answered, “The body had pain. Am I the body?” Pain is there but no suffering.
On 14th of April, 1950 evening the sage gave darshan to the devotees present in the Ashram. They sat singing Ramana’s hymn to Arunachala with the refrain Arunachala-Siva. The sage asked his attendants to make him sit up. He opened his luminous and gracious eyes for a brief while; there was a smile; tear of bliss trickled down from the outer corner of his eyes; and at 8:47 the breathing stopped. There was no struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, reached the summit, of the holy hill, Arunachala, and disappeared behind it.
Ramana Maharshi was, and is, regarded by many as an outstanding enlightened being. He was a charismatic person, and attracted many devotees, some of whom saw him as an avatar and the embodiment of Shiva.