Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), who has opened up the path of advaita to all people, is one of the most remarkable Sages of the modern era. After his enlightenment at age 17 he led a simple life on the sacred Hill Arunachala, in Southern India, for over 50 years, until his death. Attracted by the power of his presence, people from all countries, cultures and religions, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, came in their thousands to see him. Since his death nothing has changed, on the contrary, Ramanashram and Arunachala have become a vibrant spiritual centre and more and more people are showing an interest in the teachings of Ramana Maharshi.
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Sri Ramana Maharshi
Birth and Childhood
The Awakening to the True Self
Departure for Arunachala
In the Arunachaleswara Temple
In the Small Temple of Gurumurtam and in the Mango Grove
Sri Ramana’s Steadfastness
Sri Ramana and Arunachala
In The Virupaksha Cave
Ramanashram Comes into Being
Sri Ramana in the Kitchen
Daily Life at the Ashram
Sri Ramana and His Devotees
Sri Ramana and the Animals
The Later Years
The Fatal Illness
Sri Ramana´s Promise of His Continued Presence
The Essential Features of the Teaching of Sri Ramana Maharshi
by Alan Adams-Jacobs
Ramana Maharshi is universally considered as the Greatest Sage that has been born, as an act of Divine grace, on this planet for a millennium. Not since Adi Shankara has any Enlightened Being made such an impact on the spiritual development of our world both in the East and in the West.
This beautifully written and most expertly translated major biography of the Great Master fully illustrates this claim, most convincingly and in no uncertain manner. It is full of anecdotal history which brings to vivid life, the teachings and example of this supreme Spiritual Master.
He lived an exemplary life, beyond any fault and blemish. He was an example of moral purity and intellectual clarity. He was an inspiring Poet and wise Philosopher, but above all he largely taught through Silence. This is the rarest gift, even amongst Great Sages, and is the hallmark of the highest, most evolved example of humanity. In his personal life he was a model of love and compassion embracing all who came to him with true equanimity, and never refused guidance to any who approached him.
He was revolutionary and radical because he made his simple unique Direct Path to Self Realization available to all men and women who were earnest in their quest. The only qualification was a strong desire for liberation from the bondage of suffering in an illusory world. His simple method of Self Enquiry and Self Surrender did away with all the complicated and confusing spiritual practices and bizarre theories which have blurred and muddled the Path to Enlightenment for thousands of years. His way is available to every householder. It is an open secret. The only qualification is sincerity, and a serious intent to make effort along the lines he suggested.
He came to the Planet prepared to bring his message at one of the darkest times for our humanity when a great light was needed to restore the Dharma of Truth and Righteousness. His Maha-yoga embraces all the traditional paths of Devotion, Work, and Knowledge. It is available, without any change in life style for the ordinary householder. There is no longer any need to follow a monastic way to live a truly religious life in the twenty-first century.
As this book and many others, amply illustrate, he brought many of his devotees to Self Realization. His influence and guidance is still experienced today, even after his death, by those who are conscientiously practising his teaching. Most importantly he is responsible for the Renaissance of the Advaita Movement which is sweeping West and East like wildfire in the dense forest of samsara, and bringing much needed spiritual help to many thousands.
This book skilfully and meticulously written by Gabriele Ebert, with famed Teutonic thoroughness, devotedly recounts his life story in a masterly and scholarly manner. She is a child of our contemporary Western culture, so her book can be readily enjoyed by the Western, as well as by the Eastern reader. It was no less a personage than C.G. Jung who wrote in his essay on the Maharshi that in India he is the whitest spot in a white space. Could there be a higher commendation?
It is a privilege to heartily recommend this beautiful book to all those who are earnest in their spiritual quest and who genuinely wish to learn more about this Great Sage, his life and his teachings. I am confident it will thrill and instruct all those who are open to the possibility of Self Realization, now, for themselves, in this God-given life. It is a second education for those who see that all their life hitherto has been merely a preparation.
Chairman, Ramana Maharshi Foundation UK
October 2003, Hampstead, London
Sri Ramana Maharshi, who has opened up the path of advaita to all people, is one of the most remarkable Sages of the modern era. After his enlightenment at age 17 he led a simple life on the sacred Hill Arunachala, in Southern India, for over 50 years, until his death in 1950. Attracted by the power of his presence, people from all countries, cultures and religions, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, came in their thousands to see him. Since his death nothing has changed, on the contrary, Ramanashram and Arunachala have become a vibrant spiritual centre and more and more people are showing an interest in the teachings of Ramana Maharshi.
There was a great deal of source material available for this new biography, as, over the last 50 years, many of the Maharshi’s devotees have published their recollections and diaries. The bibliography contains a list of all the sources used. The quotes included at the beginning of each chapter are direct quotes from Sri Ramana himself, unless otherwise indicated. Sanskrit terms are printed in italics and are explained in the glossary. Photos showing places today have been taken by me.
I would like to thank Victor Ward for this excellent translation, Alan Adams-Jacobs for the wonderful foreword and Miles Wright for his help in compiling the glossary and for looking through Chapter 18. Robert Högerle’s helpful suggestions were also very much appreciated. I am also extremely grateful to the President of Ramanashram - Sri V.S. Ramanan, and the President of the Ramana Maharshi Foundation in Bangalore - Sri A.R. Natarajan, for their authorisation to use the Indian publications and photo material.
What value has this birth without knowledge born of realization?
Ramana’s home at Tiruchuli
Venkataraman, later to be known as Ramana Maharshi, was born into an old Brahmin family on 30th December 1879 in Tiruchuli, a village of approximately 500 houses some 30 miles south of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, South India. Tiruchuli is the administrative centre (Taluk) for the Ramnad District. There has been a village on this spot for many centuries and it is mentioned in several legends in the Puranas. The Bhuminatheswara temple, dedicated to Shiva as Lord of the World, is a very popular place of pilgrimage. People often bathe in the temple tank, as it is claimed that the high sulphur content of the water has healing properties.
Sri Ramana’s father, Sundaram Iyer, started his professional life at the age of twelve as a clerk for a village accountant. He later became a petition writer and ultimately worked his way up to the post of uncertified pleader (Vakil). He practised principally at the local court of arbitration and earned sufficient money to enable him to provide a comfortable life for his family. He was considered to be both extremely skilled and fair and had a reputation for dealing kindly with the poor and oppressed. He was highly respected in the local courts, so much so that on occasions both parties, plaintiff and defendant, wanted him to plead on their behalf.
Ramana's father Sundaram
Sundaram was also well-known for his great generosity and hospitality. His spacious house in Kartikeyan Street near the temple had two separate areas with identical furnishings and fittings. One area was used by the family, the other was made available to guests. Any poor person who knocked at the door was provided with a meal. Countless clients and visitors came to the house throughout the day. Sundaram also offered accommodation and assistance to any newly arrived officials, until they found permanent lodgings of their own.
In so far as concerns spiritual matters Sundaram was very ordinary. His spiritual life, like that of every other devout Hindu, involved occasional pilgrimages to local temples, reading the legends of Hindu Saints and performance of the daily domestic puja.
Sri Ramana’s mother, Alagammal, came from Pasalai, a village near Manamadurai. She was married to Sundaram Iyer when she was still a child. There was no formal school education for women at that time, but from the elder women in Tiruchuli she learned many vedantic hymns, from which she took the spiritual instruction for her life.
She and her husband were an ideal couple. She supported Sundaram’s hospitality in every way, even if it meant she had to prepare a meal for guests in the middle of the night. The harmony between them was further emphasized through their names - Sundaram means ‘beauty’ in Sanskrit, while Alagammal means ‘beauty’ in Tamil. Ramana wrote in one of his hymns to Arunachala, “May Thou and I be one and inseparable like Alagu and Sundaram, Oh Arunachala.”
Ramana was born one hour after midnight on Monday, 30th December 1879, as the second of three sons and one daughter. Throughout Southern India it was the day of the Arudra Darshan, the festival of the cosmic dance of Shiva Nataraja. That year this special festival day lasted from sunrise on the 29th to sunrise on the 30th December. At dawn on the 29th the devotees of Shiva took their ritual bath in the temple tank. Afterwards the flower-bedecked statue of Nataraja was carried through the streets of the village to the sound of drums and bells and much singing. At 1 a.m. it was returned to the temple of Tiruchuli where the customary rituals were performed. Venkataraman was born at that precise moment. It is recorded that a blind woman present in the delivery room had a vision of a wondrous light and said, “He who is born today in your house must be a divine being.”
Sundaram named his second oldest son Venkataraman. Ramana is an abbreviation of Venkataraman, but nobody, with the exception of one relative, ever called him that. Later Ganapati Muni (see Chapter 8) used the name ‘Ramana Maharshi’ and it is only since this time that ‘Ramana’ has been in use.
Venkataraman’s childhood was completely normal. He was a strong boy and was breast-fed by his mother until he was five years old. He was friendly and open-minded by nature and was loved by everyone in the village. He attended the local primary school in Tiruchuli for three years before going to the secondary school in Dindigul when he was eleven. Whereas his elder brother, Nagaswami, was a diligent pupil, Venkataraman, although intelligent, took little delight in learning. He was far more interested in sports and games. The Bhuminatheswara temple and its surroundings were his favourite playground. He liked to meet with his friends there at the temple tank. A phenomenon which remains unexplained even today, is the change in water level in the Tamil month of Masi (mid-February to mid-March), with the waxing moon the water rises approximately 12 inches a day for ten days in a row, then subsides with the waning moon back to its original level. Ramana remembered how, fascinated, he used to watch this as a boy, “In my boyhood days, all of us used to join together and draw on the steps some signs in order to see how much the water rose each day. It used to be amusing. The rising of the water used to start 10 days earlier [before the full moon] and used to submerge the steps at the rate of one step per day and become full by the full moon day. To us, it was great fun.”1
Another of Ramana’s playgrounds was the Gaundinya river near the Kalayar temple on the outskirts of Tiruchuli. There he and his friends used to swim or play together inside the temple area.
Not a great deal is known about this period of Ramana’s life, but what is known makes it clear that he was a lively boy who liked to play pranks.
One day, when he was about six years old, he climbed up to the loft of his house along with some friends. The place was full of bundles of old papers and documents, which his father had decided to store there and which related to lawsuits long-since settled. The children took one of the bundles down and made a fleet of paper boats out of it, which they then sailed in the temple tank. When Ramana’s father came home, he was furious, so Ramana quickly made himself scarce. When he did not return for the midday meal, a search was organized. He was found sitting in the temple in the shrine of goddess Sahayambal (one of Shiva’s consorts), from whom he had sought solace.
On another occasion Ramana went even further, he climbed into the house of a neighbouring lawyer and carried away some papers he found in a cupboard, unaware that they were important documents relating to a court case. He invented a game for himself, distributing the documents to passers-by on the street, as if they were advertising leaflets. When the lawyer returned home and saw what had happened, he demanded the papers back, but it proved impossible to recover many of them. Of course when he told Ramana’s father what had happened, the latter became very angry and shouted, “Undress the boy! Shave his head completely and give him only a loincloth to wear! Don’t give him any food!” How far the punishment was carried out is, unfortunately, not reported.
Ramana, however, in addition to his predilection for playing pranks, also had a compassionate heart, as is illustrated by the following story, which he later recounted himself, “One day he [referring to a neighbouring boy three years his younger] got a sugarcane and a knife, and as he could not cut it himself, he requested his brothers to help him, but they went away without heeding his request. He began weeping. I felt sorry for him. I took the sugarcane and tried to cut it. My finger got cut and began to bleed. Even so, I felt sorry for him because he was weeping and was a little fellow, so somehow I managed to cut the cane into pieces. I tied my finger with a wet cloth; the bleeding, however did not stop.”2
The rite of Upanayama (putting on the sacred Brahmin thread) was performed when Ramana was around the age of eight, and he thus became a full member of the Brahmin caste, but still he showed no special spiritual inclination.
Although this fortunate family was no more religious than any other, there was one peculiar feature in its history. An old family legend tells how, one day, an ascetic came to the house begging for food, but, against all tradition, he was not treated with the proper respect and was not given a meal. The ascetic promptly issued a curse, stating that henceforth one member of each generation of the family would wander about begging as an ascetic like himself. This ‘curse’ had its effect, because in each generation one member renounced worldly life to become a wandering ascetic. One of Sundaram Iyer’s uncles on his father’s side had taken the ochre robe, the staff and the water jug of a sannyasin and had left to live life as a wandering renunciant and beggar. His elder brother Venkatesa also disappeared from the village one day, no doubt to embark upon the same path. He was never heard of again and since that time Sundaram had been the head of the family.
There are no indications that Sundaram Iyer ever thought that one of his sons would one day also leave home. And no doubt the thought never crossed the mind of the young Ramana either.
1 Nagamma: Letters and Recollections, p. 78
2 dto., p. 80
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 very real, the only real thing in that state.
Ramana’s home at Madurai
In February 1892 Sundaram Iyer unexpectedly died, he was in his mid-forties. He left behind him his wife Alagammal, their three sons, Nagaswami aged fourteen, Ramana aged twelve and Nagasundaram aged six and their daughter Alamelu aged four. When Ramana returned from his school at Dindigul to Tiruchuli, to see his dead father for the last time, he reflected thoughtfully, “When Father is lying here, why do they say that he has gone?” One of the elders answered him, “If this were your father, would he not receive you with love? So you see, he has gone.”
The sudden death of the head of the family was a dramatic event which resulted in the family being split up. Alagammal moved to Manamadurai with the younger children Nagasundaram and Alamelu to live with her younger brother-in-law Nelliappa Iyer, who was also working as a pleader. The two older children moved into the house of Subba Iyer, another uncle on the father’s side, who lived at number 11 Chokkappa Naicken Street near the famous Meenakshi temple.
Ramana was sent to Scott’s Middle School and later to the American Mission High School. He was an average scholar who learned easily, but was not much interested in his lessons. He would often go unprepared to class. If others recited the day’s lesson he would remember enough to enable him to keep up.
Later he told his devotees the following story with regard to his schooldays, “While the school lessons were being taught, lest I should fall asleep I used to tie a thread to the nail on the wall, and tie my hair to it. When the head nods, the thread is pulled tight and that used to wake me up. Otherwise, the teacher used to twist my ears and wake me up.”3
Wrestling, boxing, running and other sports were much more appealing to Ramana. He was stronger than most boys of his age and his strength and ability even impressed the older boys. He also liked to play football with his friends. People noticed that his team always won. This and other similar occurrences earned him the nickname ‘Thangakai’ (Golden Hand). It is a title given in Tamil Nadu to people who are always successful in their undertakings.
In his uncle’s house there was a room on the upper floor that was largely unused. Here Ramana used to play ‘throw-ball’ with his friends, with the young Ramana himself as the ‘ball’. He would curl himself up into a ball and the other playmates would throw him from one to another. Sometimes they failed to catch him and he landed on the floor, but he was never hurt by this rough play. This room in which he played is the same room in which he later had his death experience.
Sometimes Ramana and his brother would sneak out of the house at night to roam about with their playmates near the Vaigai river or the Pillaiyarpaliam tank in the outskirts of Madurai. “Every night, when the whole house was silent in sleep, Nagaswami and Ramana whose beds were in a remote corner of the house, would appropriately adjust their pillows and cover them up with their bed sheets so that it would create the impression of their presence in their beds. It was the duty of little Venkataraman [a younger friend of the same name] to bolt the door of the house when the brothers went out at about 11 p.m., and to admit them on their return at about 4 a.m.”4
Ramana did not study Sanskrit or the sacred traditions of Hinduism such as the Vedas or the Upanishads. In both the schools he attended he was taught Christianity, but Hindu boys generally showed little interest in such bible classes – and Ramana was no exception in this respect.
Although he was very much like any other boy, he did have one peculiar trait. His sleep used to be exceptionally deep. When a relative later visited him at the Ashram Ramana recalled the following incident which happened in Dindigul, “Your uncle Periappa Seshaiyar was living there then. There was some function in the house and all went to it and then in the night went to the temple. I was left alone in the house. I was sitting reading in the front room, but after a while I locked the front door and fastened the windows and went to sleep. When they returned from the temple no amount of shouting or banging at the door or window could wake me. At last they managed to open the door with a key from the opposite house and then they tried to wake me up by beating me. All the boys beat me to their heart’s content, and your uncle did too, but without effect. I knew nothing about it till they told me next morning. … The same sort of thing happened to me in Madurai too. The boys didn’t dare to touch me when I was awake, but if they had any grudge against me they would come when I was asleep and carry me wherever they liked and beat me as much as they liked and then put me back to bed, and I would know nothing about it until they told me in the morning.”5
The Death Experience
The event that heralded Ramana’s spiritual awakening was an incident in November 1895, shortly before his sixteenth birthday, according to the western calculation, his seventeenth birthday according to Indian calculation. For the first time he heard mentioned the holy mountain Arunachala, the place to which he would soon set off and where he was to live until his death.
Arunachala (transl.: the Red Mountain) on the wide plain of Southern India is geologically one of the oldest parts of the earth. For pious Hindus it is one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites. There is a well-known saying in Southern India which the young Ramana also knew, “To see Chidambaram, to be born at Tiruvarur, to die at Benares or even to think of Arunachala is to be assured of Liberation.”6
At the time Ramana only knew that Arunachala was a very holy place. He had never connected it with any real place and did not know where the mountain was located. Nevertheless, from childhood onwards, he had been aware of a kind of permanent pulsating repetition (sphurana) of “Arunachala, Arunachala”, that was both spontaneous and uninterrupted.
One day in November 1895 he met an elderly relative and when he asked him where he was coming from, the answer came back, “from Arunachala”. For the first time Ramana learned that Arunachala was a real place which one could visit. He further asked where it was situated and received the answer, “What! Do you not know Tiruvannamalai? That is Arunachalam.” Of course the town of Tiruvannamalai was well known to him.
Soon thereafter, in the middle of July 1896, at the age of 16, the great change took place in his life. He was at the time a pupil in his final year at secondary school. He later described the incident which changed his life completely and irreversibly, “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. … 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 now be explained by anything felt in my 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 was 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 fear 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 the 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 this body, am “I” dead? Is the 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 very real, the only real thing in that state, and all the conscious activity that was connected with my body was centred on that. The ‘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 forever. 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 which accompanies and blends with all other notes. Whether the body was engaged in talking, reading or anything else, I was still centred 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.”7
Later it was said on more than one occasion that Ramana’s experience had lasted approximately 20 minutes or half an hour. But he himself stressed that there was no concept of time in it.
It is also remarkable that afterwards Ramana never harboured any doubts concerning his Self Realization. The experience remained with him thereafter uninterrupted and was never lost or diminished. He had absolutely no doubts about it and never searched confirmation from a spiritual teacher. He repeatedly stressed in later years, that despite the apparent changing phases of his outward life there was never any change in this experience and he always remained the same.
As a result of this death experience Ramana’s life was instantly and totally changed. He reports, “When I lay down with limbs outstretched and mentally enacted the death scene and realized that the body would be taken and cremated and yet I would live, some force, call it atmic power [power of atman] or anything else, rose within me and took possession of me. With that, I was reborn and I became a new man. I became indifferent to everything afterwards, having neither likes nor dislikes.”8
From now on he swallowed everything that was served to him, whether delicious or tasteless, good or bad, with no regard to how it tasted or smelled, or to its quality. Formerly, if he thought an injustice had been done to him or if other boys teased him, he would stand up for himself. Now he accepted everything without protest. He was also no longer interested in joining in his friends’ sporting activities, but rather sat alone and meditated with eyes closed in yogic posture. At school he started to encounter problems, because he was no longer interested in books. He remembered, “After the ‘death’ experience I was living in a different world. How could I turn my attention to books? Before that, I would at least attend to what the other boys repeated and repeat the same myself. But afterwards, I could not do even that. At school, my mind would not dwell on study at all. I would be imagining and expecting God would suddenly drop down from Heaven before me.”9
Though Ramana told nobody about his great experience and tried to appear as before, other people of course noticed the change which had come over him. His elder brother Nagaswami made fun of him and called him a jnani (enlightened being) or yogiswara (highest of all yogis) and said mockingly that he would do better to take himself off to some dense primeval forest like the seers (rishis) of old.
Devotion to God (Bhakti)
After the death experience, bhakti, the loving veneration of and devotion to God, gained in importance for Ramana. Some months before his enlightenment he had read the first spiritual book in his life, Sekkilar’s Periyapuranam, the life story of the 63 Tamil saints (nayanars). Their statues can be found in the Meenakshi temple in Madurai. Ancient legends tell how the 63 saints had obtained Shiva’s grace and had renounced everything and left home.
After his enlightenment Ramana started to visit the temple regularly. He recalled, “Formerly I would go there rarely with friends, see the images, put on sacred ashes and sacred vermilion on the forehead and return home without any perceptible emotion. After the awakening into the new life, I would go almost every evening to the temple. I would go alone and stand before Shiva, or Meenakshi or Nataraja or the sixty-three saints for long periods. I would feel waves of emotion overcoming me. The former hold on the body had been given up by my spirit, since it ceased to cherish the idea I-am-the-body. The spirit therefore longed to have a fresh hold and hence the frequent visits to the temple and the overflow of the soul in profuse tears. This was God’s (Isvara’s) play with the individual spirit. I would stand before Isvara, the Controller of the universe and the destinies of all, the Omniscient and Omnipresent, and occasionally pray for the descent of his grace upon me so that my devotion might increase and become perpetual like that of the sixty-three saints. Mostly I would not pray at all, but let the deep within flow on and into the deep without. Tears would mark this overflow of the soul and not betoken any particular feeling of pleasure or pain.”10
During his last month in Madurai, Ramana suffered from an unusual intense pain in his head and a burning sensation. But all symptoms of his profound change disappeared when he stepped into the temple at Tiruvannamalai for the first time on 1st September 1896.
3 Nagamma: Letters, p. 175
4 Krishnamurti Aiyer: Sri Ramana’s Boyhood in Madurai. In: Ramana Smrti, p. 
5 Mudaliar: Day by Day, p. 209
6According to the Sthalapuranam. In the inmost sanctuary of the temple at Chidambaram is the Golden Hall with the main sculpture of Shiva Natarajan. Tiruvarur belongs to the largest temple complexes in Southern India. Benares (Varanasi) on the holy Ganges is the town of Shiva and the most holy of all places of Hindu pilgrimage.
7 Narasimha Swami: Self Realization, pp. 20-22
8 Mudaliar: Day by Day, p. 41
9 dto., p. 279
10 Narasimha Swami: Self Realization, pp. 23ff
When I left home, I was like a speck swept on by a tremendous flood, I knew not my body or the world, whether it was day or night.
Ramana’s farewell letter
Ramana now faced a continual conflict between the demands placed upon him by his everyday life in the form of family and teachers, and absorption in the Self, which was now almost constant. This conflict could not last for ever and on 29th August 1896, approximately six weeks after his enlightenment, it finally came to a head. One day he had failed to study properly some lesson on English grammar. As punishment for this he had been given the task of copying out the lesson three times. When he came to the third copy his mind revolted against this soulless mechanical exercise. He pushed the work aside, sat upright in yoga posture, closed his eyes and started to meditate. His elder brother Nagaswami, who had been watching him all the time, cried out ill-temperedly, “Why should one, who behaves thus, retain all this?” The meaning was, that for one who behaves like a sadhu, family life and school made no sense anymore and he had no right to the comforts of domestic life. It was not the first time his brother had made such remarks and reproaches. But this time the shot went home.
Ramana saw that what his brother said was true. At the same moment the thought of Arunachala took full possession of him. He understood that the strong attraction which he felt was a call and decided there and then to set off for Arunachala. He knew, however, that his family would not let him go if he were to explain his plans to them, so he devised a scheme which would enable him to leave secretly. He told his brother that he had to attend a special class in electricity at school at 12 noon. Nagaswami, who had no idea of what was going on in his younger brother’s mind, said, “Well then, do not fail to take five rupees from the box below, and to pay my college fees.”
Ramana went downstairs, ate quickly and obtained the five rupees from his uncle’s wife. He, of course, told her nothing about his plan. He later reflected that this white lie, which was the only one he told during his life, was necessary to enable him to come to Tiruvannamalai.
In an old atlas he searched out the nearest railway station to Tiruvannamalai and saw that it was Tindivanam. Three rupees would suffice for the fare he thought. He wrote a short parting note and left it along with the remaining two rupees.
His letter read, “I have, in search of my Father and in obedience to his command, started from here. THIS is only embarking on a virtuous enterprise. Therefore none need grieve over THIS affair. To trace THIS out, no money need be spent. Your College fee has not yet been paid. Rupees two are enclosed herewith. Thus, _______”11
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